This article analyzes data on self-reported food insecurity of more than 50,000 individuals in 18 Sub-Saharan African countries over the period 2005–2008, when global food prices increased dramatically. The average level of self-reported food insecurity was high but remarkably stable over time, at about 54%.
However, this average hides large heterogeneity, both within countries and across countries. In eight of the sample countries, self-reported food security improved, while it worsened in the ten other countries.
Our results suggest that heterogeneous effects in self-reported food security are consistent with economic predictions, as they are correlated with economic growth and net food consumption (both at the household and country level). Specifically, in the face of rising food prices, self-reported food security improved on average in rural households, while it worsened in urban households – a finding that holds when using global prices or domestic food prices. Improvements in food security over time were also positively correlated with net food exports and GDP per capita growth. While the self-reported indicator
used in this paper requires further study and one should carefully interpret the results, our findings suggest
the need for a critical evaluation of the currently used data and numbers in the public debate on food
prices and food insecurity.