Should the food insecurity experience scale crowd out other food access measures? evidence from Nigeria

Measurement of food access typically relies on a consensus of different indicators. However, there is a growing list of surveys in which the Food Insecurity Experience Scale is one of the few food access indicators captured, likely because it is an official measure for tracking progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger. This paper uses a nationally representative, multipurpose household survey conducted in Nigeria to investigate the validity of the Food Insecurity Experience Scale. It compares the Food Insecurity Experience Scale to monetary poverty and a widely used food access metric that has been more extensively validated, the Food Consumption Score. Although it is possible for food access metrics to be poorly aligned and capture different dimensions of poor food access, empirically supported assumptions in standard consumption models result in many dimensions of poor food access being concentrated among the poorest segments of the population. However, the paper demonstrates that the Food Insecurity Experience Scale does not appear to correctly identify the population with poor food access—it finds little difference in the share with poor food access among poor and nonpoor Nigerians. Moreover, even the very richest and very poorest households have a similar prevalence of poor food access, according to the Food Insecurity Experience Scale. These patterns are in stark contrast to the Food Consumption Score, which suggests that food access is significantly lower for poorer Nigerians. Combined, the results demonstrate the importance of measuring food access with more than one indicator, and they call into question the notion of using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale alone, despite the measure being a key Sustainable Development Goal food security indicator.