Till Ludwig

Research themes
  • Renewable energy
  • Food & Aid Policy
  • Land, water, food and energy
Research countries
  • India
Professional experience

Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Heinrich Böll Foundation


MS Agricultural Economics, University of Arkansas

MSc Rural Development, Ghent University / Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

BA Political Science and Economics, University of Bremen

Thesis title

Consumption Choices. The effects of food production, markets and preferences on diets in India

Thesis abstract

The choice of which food to consume is often an individual choice. Yet, food and nutrition insecurity presents a situation that those who suffer from it have rarely chosen consciously. Availability of foods, their accessibility and food of good quality are necessary conditions to food security. A lack of these or unhealthy food preferences of the consumers are factors contributing to poor diets and malnutrition. High prevalence of food and nutrition insecurity often occurs in rural areas. These areas are lacking economic opportunities and malnutrition often coincides with poverty. Monotonous diets consisting of few food varieties are the norm and one reason for poor nutrition outcomes. At the same time, many malnourished families are food-producing farmers leading to a puzzle of cause and effect of malnutrition.

The present research aims to analyze the drivers of dietary diversity of individuals and households. The study areas are rural regions in India whose population has a high rate of malnutrition and which is prone to various risks. The results indicate that tangible factors such as food production and market access, but also intangible factors such as economic preferences play a vital role in achieving and maintaining a diverse and secure nutrition.

Agricultural production is the starting point for most food value chains. Clearly, diet choices can only be made on the basis of available foods. It is not so clear if diverse diets are a result of diverse agricultural production or if other factors such as markets are mediating these. The first research objective examines the link between production diversity and dietary diversity of smallholder farmers. We identify that a diverse production does affect diverse food consumption; if production diversity is increases by 1 food group, the dietary diversity of women increases up to 18.8%. However, we also find that market access has a much stronger effect and can even negate direct effects of production diversity. Markets can provide foods that are not produced by smallholder farmers and further increase the accessible food choices.

Given a certain food variety and availability, individual preferences still steer actual food consumption. Preferences are core drivers of diets; taste preferences guide us to prefer one food over another. But there are also deep preferences that guide our behavior subconsciously. Risk aversion or risk affinity, altruism or egoistic behavior are character traits that affect daily choices. The second research objective provides the theoretical foundation on how these preferences affect food consumption behavior. On the basis of the expected utility theory, we develop a model that predicts the effects. The third research objective tests the model empirically. We utilize an innovative survey methodology to elicit the preferences in rural areas of India. We show that risk preference and altruism do influence dietary choices and, thus, nutrition security. An increase of 10 percentage points in risk taking increases the dietary diversity score by up to 1.4%; altruistic behavior of the household head improves the nutrition by up to 3.0%.


Doctoral research funded by

German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Dr. Hermann Eiselen Ph.D. Grant of Foundation fiat panis

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)

Supervisors of
doctoral work

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Additionals, Curriculum Vitae
and Downloads

CV_Ludwig.pdf [PDF | 352.58KB]

Till Ludwig

Junior Researcher


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ZEF B: Department of Economic and Technological Change