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The Transformation of Hunger: The Demand for Calories Past and Present

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  • Logan, Trevon D.

Abstract

According to conventional income measures, nineteenth century American and British industrial workers were two to four times as wealthy as poor people in developing countries today. Surprisingly, however, today's poor are less hungry than yesterday's wealthy industrial workers. I estimate the demand for calories of American and British industrial workers using the 1888 Cost of Living Survey and find that the estimated calorie elasticities for both American and British households are greater than calorie elasticity estimates for households in present day developing countries. The results are robust to measurement error, unreported food consumption, and indirect estimation bias. This finding implies substantial nutritional improvements among the poor in the twentieth century. Using the Engel curve implied by the historical calorie elasticities, I derive new income estimates for developing countries which yield income estimates that are six to ten times greater than those derived using purchasing power parity or GDP deflators.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 69 (2009)
Issue (Month): 02 (June)
Pages: 388-408

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:69:y:2009:i:02:p:388-408_00

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  1. Subramanian, Shankar & Deaton, Angus, 1996. "The Demand for Food and Calories," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 133-62, February.
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Cited by:
  1. António Afonso & Christophe Rault, 2010. "Short and Long-run Behaviour of Long-term Sovereign Bond Yields," Working Papers Department of Economics 2010/19, ISEG - School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, University of Lisbon.
  2. Casabonne, Ursula & Kenny, Charles, 2012. "The Best Things in Life are (Nearly) Free: Technology, Knowledge, and Global Health," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 21-35.
  3. Trevon D. Logan, 2008. "Economies of Scale in the Household: Puzzles and Patterns from the American Past," NBER Working Papers 13869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2012. "Agricultural Output, Calories and Living Standards in England before and during The Industrial Revolution," Working Papers 201212, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  5. Afonso, António & Martins, Manuel M.F., 2012. "Level, slope, curvature of the sovereign yield curve, and fiscal behaviour," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(6), pages 1789-1807.
  6. Yusuf, Shahid & Nabeshima, Kaoru & Wei Ha, 2007. "What makes cities healthy ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4107, The World Bank.
  7. Ann Carlos & Frank Lewis, 2010. "Property Rights, Standards of Living, and Economic Growth: Western Canadian Cree," Working Papers 1232, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  8. Pan, Suwen & Fang, Cheng & Rejesus, Roderick M., 2008. "Food Calorie Intake under Grain Price Uncertainty: Evidence from Rural Nepal," 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida 6198, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).

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