Not enough money or not enough time to satisfy the Thrifty Food Plan? A cost difference approach for estimating a money-time threshold
Food production at home requires money and time. Food assistance programs focus exclusively on the money cost, while ignoring the time cost. This one-dimensional focus could undermine the effectiveness of food assistance programs. In the spirit of Vickery (1977), this paper uses a cost difference approach to develop a money-time threshold, and several related metrics, to determine whether money or time is the most limiting resource in reaching the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) target. In our empirical analysis we find that when time is ignored, single headed households spend on average 35% more than required to meet the TFP target. However, when time is included, these households spend on average 40% less than required to meet the TFP target. In addition, we find that when time is ignored, 62% of single headed households on average spend enough money to reach the TFP target, but when time is included, only 13% of single headed households spend enough on average to reach the TFP target. Our empirical results suggest that time is more constraining than money in reaching the TFP target. These results imply that metrics solely focusing on money could severely underestimate the gap between actual expenditures and those required to reach the TFP target.
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