Food Expenditure, Food Preparation Time and Household Economies of Scale
42 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2004
Date Written: February 2005
This paper is concerned with the effect of household size on the allocation of household money and time to food consumption. Recent studies have found that larger families spend less per capita on food, given similar per capita total expenditures, even despite economies in shared goods allows larger households to spend more on food. This paper examines household time inputs and shows that economies of scale in preparing food can explain this result. Larger households can achieve the same level of consumption at lower expenditure by substituting cheaper production time for more expensive ingredients. Using household expenditure and time-use survey data from Russia and the United States, I estimate the magnitude of household economies in food expenditures and food-related time. Economies in food preparation time are substantial in Russia and very small in the U.S. The cross-country differences are explained in terms of differences in family structure, income level, intra-household specialization of labor, and the availability of substitutes for home-prepared meals. There is evidence that the time intensity of meals increases with household size, but the quality of meals is unaffected by changes in household size.
Keywords: Food consumption, time use, household economies of scale, household production
JEL Classification: D1, J2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation