Heat or Eat? Cold Weather Shocks and Nutrition in Poor American Families

52 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2002 Last revised: 30 Nov 2013

See all articles by Jay Bhattacharya

Jay Bhattacharya

Stanford University - Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Thomas DeLeire

Georgetown University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Steven J. Haider

Michigan State University - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Janet Currie

Princeton University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2002

Abstract

We examine the effects of cold weather periods on family budgets and on nutritional outcomes in poor American families. Expenditures on food and home fuels are tracked by linking the Consumer Expenditure Survey to temperature data. Using the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, we track calorie consumption, dietary quality, vitamin deficiencies, and anemia in summer and winter months. We find that both rich and poor families increase fuel expenditures in response to unusually cold weather (a 10 degree F drop below normal). At same time, poor families reduce food expenditures by roughly the same amount as the increase in fuel expenditures, while rich families increase food expenditures. Poor adults and children reduce caloric intake by roughly 200 calories during winter months, unlike richer adults and children. In sensitivity analyses, we find that decreases in food expenditure are most pronounced outside the South. We conclude that poor parents and their children outside the South spend and eat less food during cold weather temperature shocks. We surmise that existing social programs fail to buffer against these shocks.

Suggested Citation

Bhattacharya, Jayanta and DeLeire, Thomas and Haider, Steven J. and Currie, Janet, Heat or Eat? Cold Weather Shocks and Nutrition in Poor American Families (June 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w9004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=316001

Jayanta Bhattacharya

Stanford University - Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research ( email )

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Thomas DeLeire

Georgetown University ( email )

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Steven J. Haider

Michigan State University - Department of Economics ( email )

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United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Janet Currie (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

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United States
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HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~jcurrie

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

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