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

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  • Trevon D. Logan

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Trevon D. Logan, 2005. "The Transformation of Hunger: The Demand for Calories Past and Present," NBER Working Papers 11754, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11754
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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 133-162, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Bruno Lanz & Simon Dietz & Timothy Swanson, 2017. "Global Population Growth, Technology, And Malthusian Constraints: A Quantitative Growth Theoretic Perspective," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 58, pages 973-1006, August.
    3. Trevon D. Logan, 2011. "Economies Of Scale In The Household: Puzzles And Patterns From The American Past," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(4), pages 1008-1028, October.
    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. repec:eee:ecolec:v:144:y:2018:i:c:p:260-277 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. António Afonso & Christophe Rault, 2015. "Short- and long-run behaviour of long-term sovereign bond yields," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(37), pages 3971-3993, August.
    7. Lanz, Bruno & Dietz, Simon & Swanson, Tim, 2018. "The Expansion of Modern Agriculture and Global Biodiversity Decline: An Integrated Assessment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 260-277.
    8. Yusuf, Shahid & Nabeshima, Kaoru & Wei Ha, 2007. "What makes cities healthy ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4107, The World Bank.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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