Giffen Goods, the Survival Imperative, and the Irish Potato Culture
This paper modifies the modern explanation of Giffen behavior by incorporating the classical emphasis on subsistence. Specifically, the calculated redirection of consumption priorities by those reduced to subsistence levels is embodied in the utility function and the biological necessity of consuming sufficient nutrition to support health is modeled as a subsistence constraint. This methodology is then applied to the potato culture that existed in Ireland prior to the 1845-48 famine. It is suggested that the evolution of this culture was shaped by subsistence-driven behavior similar to the behavior that underlies the Giffen effect. Copyright 1994 by University of Chicago Press.
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