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Economies of Scale in the Household: Puzzles and Patterns from the American Past

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  • Trevon D. Logan

Abstract

Household economies of scale arise when households with multiple members share public goods, making larger households better off at lower per capita expenditures. While estimates of household economies of scale are critical for measuring income and living standards, we do not know how these scale economies change over time. I use American household expenditure surveys to produce the first comparable historical estimates of household scale economies. I find that scale economies changed significantly from 1888 to 1935 for all expenditure categories considered (food, clothing, entertainment, and housing), but not all trends in scale economies are consistent with theoretical predictions. I use these historical estimates of household scale economies to resolve several theoretical and empirical puzzles in the literature. I find that existing explanations for puzzles in the household economies of scale literature do not hold in the past. As such, our notions about household economies of scale must be reassessed in light of this historical evidence.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13869
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    Cited by:

    1. Akresh, Richard & Edmonds, Eric V., 2010. "The Analytical Returns to Measuring a Detailed Household Roster," IZA Discussion Papers 4759, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Timothy J. Halliday, 2010. "Mismeasured Household Size and its Implications for the Identification of Economies of Scale," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 72(2), pages 246-262, April.
    3. Alejandrina Salcedo & Todd Schoellman & Michèle Tertilt, 2012. "Families as roommates: Changes in U.S. household size from 1850 to 2000," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(1), pages 133-175, March.
    4. Tscharaktschiew, Stefan & Hirte, Georg, 2010. "How does the household structure shape the urban economy?," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 498-516, November.
    5. Sanae Tashiro, 2009. "Differences in Food Preparation by Race and Ethnicity: Evidence from the American Time Use Survey," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 161-180, December.
    6. Gutierrezy, Federico H., 2018. "A Sharing Model of the Household: Explaining the Deaton-Paxson Paradox and Computing Household Indifference Scales," GLO Discussion Paper Series 166, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    7. Trevon D. Logan, 2008. "Are Engel Curve Estimates of CPI Bias Biased?," NBER Working Papers 13870, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Berendeeva, Ekaterina & Ratnikova, Tatiana, 2016. "The Deaton–Paxson paradox in the consumption of Russian households," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 42, pages 54-74.
    9. Jacobson, David & Mavrikiou, Petroula M. & Minas, Christos, 2010. "Household size, income and expenditure on food: The case of Cyprus," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 319-328, April.
    10. Donald Vitaliano, 2015. "A note on the ‘food paradox’: some contradictory evidence," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 1043-1053, December.
    11. Shari Eli & Nicholas Li, 2015. "Caloric Requirements and Food Consumption Patterns of the Poor," NBER Working Papers 21697, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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