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MOTHERS' MILK AND MEASURES OF ECONOMIC OUTPUT

By Julie Smith and Lindy Ingham

Abstract

Thoughtful economists have long been aware of the limitations of national accounting and GDP in measuring economic activity and material well-being. Feminist economists criticize the failure to count women's unpaid and reproductive work in measures of economic production. This paper examines the treatment of human milk production in national accounting guidelines. Human milk is an important resource produced by women. Significant maternal and child health costs result from children's premature weaning onto formula or solid food. While human milk production meets the standard national accounting criteria for inclusion in GDP, current practice is to ignore its significant economic value and the substantial private and public health costs of commercial breastmilk substitutes. Economic output measures such as GDP thus are incomplete and biased estimates of national food production and overall economic output, and they distort policy priorities to the disadvantage of women and children.Breastfeeding, national accounts, health, food supply and demand analysis, childcare,

DOI identifier: 10.1080/1354570042000332605
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