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Economies Of Scale In The Household: Puzzles And Patterns From The American Past

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  • TREVON D. LOGAN

Abstract

Household economies of scale arise when households with multiple members share public goods, making larger households better off at lower per capita expenditures. While estimates of household economies of scale are critical for measuring income and living standards, we do not know how these scale economies change over time. I use American household expenditure surveys to produce the first comparable historical estimates of household scale economies. I find that scale economies changed significantly from 1888 to 1935 for all expenditure categories considered (food, clothing, entertainment, and housing), but not all trends in scale economies are consistent with theoretical predictions. I use these historical estimates of household scale economies to resolve several theoretical and empirical puzzles in the literature. I find that existing explanations for puzzles in the household economies of scale literature do not hold in the past. As such, our notions about household economies of scale must be reassessed in light of this historical evidence.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Western Economic Association International in its journal Economic Inquiry.

Volume (Year): 49 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 (October)
Pages: 1008-1028

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ecinqu:v:49:y:2011:i:4:p:1008-1028

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  1. Angus Deaton & Christina Paxson, 2003. "Engel's What? A Response to Gan and Vernon," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(6), pages 1378-1381, December.
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  17. Logan, Trevon D., 2006. "Nutrition and Well-Being in the Late Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(02), pages 313-341, June.
  18. Richard Blundell & Martin Browning & Ian Crawford, 2002. "Nonparametric Engel Curves and Revealed Preference," CAM Working Papers 2002-04, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Applied Microeconometrics.
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  21. Li Gan & Victoria Vernon, 2003. "Testing the Barten Model of Economies of Scale in Household Consumption: Toward Resolving a Paradox of Deaton and Paxson," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(6), pages 1361-1377, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Salcedo, Alejandrina & Schoellman, Todd & Tertilt, Michèle, 2009. "Families as Roommates: Changes in U.S. Household Size from 1850 to 2000," CEPR Discussion Papers 7543, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Sanae Tashiro, 2009. "Differences in Food Preparation by Race and Ethnicity: Evidence from the American Time Use Survey," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 161-180, December.
  3. Timothy Halliday, 2007. "Mismeasured Household Size and Its Implications for the Identification of Economies of Scale," Working Papers 200709, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
  4. Jacobson, David & Mavrikiou, Petroula M. & Minas, Christos, 2010. "Household size, income and expenditure on food: The case of Cyprus," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 319-328, April.
  5. Trevon D. Logan, 2008. "Are Engel Curve Estimates of CPI Bias Biased?," NBER Working Papers 13870, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Tscharaktschiew, Stefan & Hirte, Georg, 2010. "How does the household structure shape the urban economy?," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 498-516, November.
  7. Akresh, Richard & Edmonds, Eric V., 2010. "The Analytical Returns to Measuring a Detailed Household Roster," IZA Discussion Papers 4759, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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