Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

The Material Well-Being of Single Mother Households in the 1980s and 1990s: What Can We Learn From Food Spending?


Author Info

  • Thomas DeLeire
  • Helen Levy


A combination of welfare reform, expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other policy changes led to increases in the labor supply of single mothers in the 1990s and a decline in their participation in cash welfare programs. Whether the material well-being of single mothers and their families has improved is less clear. Meyer and Sullivan (2004) report that single mothers’ food expenditure increased during the 1990s and conclude that their well-being either improved or remained the same, relative to single childless women or married women with children. Our reading of the data suggests that a more cautious interpretation is in order. In particular, we note that increases in food spending do not necessarily reflect increases in well-being. Total food spending may change even though the actual food consumed did not if there is a shift from home-prepared food to commercially-prepared or restaurant food. We examine trends in spending on food at home and food away from home using data from the Consumer Expenditure Diary Survey and find that they are consistent with such a shift. We find that the entire increase in food expenditure can be explained by a shift from food at home to food away from home.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL:
Our checks indicate that this address may not be valid because: 404 Not Found. If this is indeed the case, please notify (Eleanor Cartelli)
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 0501.

as in new window
Date of creation: Sep 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0501

Contact details of provider:
Postal: 1155 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
Phone: 773-702-8400
Web page:
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: welfare reform; earned income tax credit; food; food expenditures; food consumption; single mothers;


No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.


Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Gelber, Alexander M. & Mitchell, Joshua W., 2009. "Taxes and Time Allocation: Evidence from Single Women," MPRA Paper 19148, University Library of Munich, Germany.


This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


Access and download statistics


When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0501. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Eleanor Cartelli) The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask Eleanor Cartelli to update the entry or send us the correct address.

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.