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Heat or Eat? Cold Weather Shocks and Nutrition in Poor American Families

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  • Jayanta Bhattacharya
  • Thomas DeLeire
  • Steven Haider
  • Janet Currie

Abstract

We examine the effects of cold weather periods on family budgets and on nutritional outcomes in poor American families. Expenditures on food and home fuels are tracked by linking the Consumer Expenditure Survey to temperature data. Using the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, we track calorie consumption, dietary quality, vitamin deficiencies, and anemia in summer and winter months. We find that both rich and poor families increase fuel expenditures in response to unusually cold weather (a 10 degree F drop below normal). At same time, poor families reduce food expenditures by roughly the same amount as the increase in fuel expenditures, while rich families increase food expenditures. Poor adults and children reduce caloric intake by roughly 200 calories during winter months, unlike richer adults and children. In sensitivity analyses, we find that decreases in food expenditure are most pronounced outside the South. We conclude that poor parents and their children outside the South spend and eat less food during cold weather temperature shocks. We surmise that existing social programs fail to buffer against these shocks.

Suggested Citation

  • Jayanta Bhattacharya & Thomas DeLeire & Steven Haider & Janet Currie, 2002. "Heat or Eat? Cold Weather Shocks and Nutrition in Poor American Families," NBER Working Papers 9004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9004
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    1. P. Wilde & C. Ranney, "undated". "A Monthly Cycle in Food Expenditure and Intake by Participants in the U.S. Food Stamp Program," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1163-98, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alisha Coleman-Jensen, 2011. "Working for Peanuts: Nonstandard Work and Food Insecurity Across Household Structure," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 84-97, March.
    2. Howden-Chapman, Philippa & Viggers, Helen & Chapman, Ralph & O'Dea, Des & Free, Sarah & O'Sullivan, Kimberley, 2009. "Warm homes: Drivers of the demand for heating in the residential sector in New Zealand," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(9), pages 3387-3399, September.
    3. O'Sullivan, Kimberley C. & Howden-Chapman, Philippa L. & Fougere, Geoffrey M. & Hales, Simon & Stanley, James, 2013. "Empowered? Examining self-disconnection in a postal survey of electricity prepayment meter consumers in New Zealand," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 277-287.
    4. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Melvin Stephens, Jr., 2006. "The Level and Composition of Consumption Over the Business Cycle: The Role of "Quasi-Fixed" Expenditures," NBER Working Papers 12388, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Sonya Kostova Huffman & Helen H. Jensen, 2008. "Food Assistance Programs and Outcomes in the Context of Welfare Reform," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 89(1), pages 95-115.
    6. Beatty, Timothy K.M. & Tuttle, Charlotte, 2012. "The Effect of Energy Price Shocks on Household Food Security," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124791, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    7. O'Sullivan, Kimberley C. & Stanley, James & Fougere, Geoffrey & Howden-Chapman, Philippa, 2016. "Heating practices and self-disconnection among electricity prepayment meter consumers in New Zealand: A follow-up survey," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 139-147.
    8. Corman, Hope & Curtis, Marah A. & Noonan, Kelly & Reichman, Nancy E., 2016. "Maternal depression as a risk factor for children's inadequate housing conditions," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 76-83.
    9. Ranney, Christine K. & Gomez, Miguel I., 2010. "Food Stamps, Food Insufficiency and Health of the Elderly," Working Papers 126968, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    10. TENIKUE Michel & TEQUAME Miron, 2018. "Economic and Health Impacts of the 2011 Post-Electoral Crisis in Côte d?Ivoire: Evidence from Microdata," LISER Working Paper Series 2018-03, LISER.
    11. Victoria Vernon, 2004. "Food Expenditure, Food Preparation Time and Household Economies of Scale," Labor and Demography 0412005, EconWPA.
    12. Robert T. Jensen & Nolan H. Miller, 2008. "The impact of food price increases on caloric intake in China," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 39(s1), pages 465-476, November.
    13. Timothy K. M. Beatty & Laura Blow & Thomas F. Crossley, 2014. "Is there a ‘heat-or-eat’ trade-off in the UK?," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 177(1), pages 281-294, January.
    14. Beatty, Timothy K.M. & Blow, Laura & Crossley, Thomas, 2009. "Heat or Eat?: An empirical analysis of U.K. cold weather income support," 2009 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, 2009, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 51903, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    15. Anderson, Will & White, Vicki & Finney, Andrea, 2012. "Coping with low incomes and cold homes," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 40-52.
    16. Liddell, Christine & Morris, Chris, 2010. "Fuel poverty and human health: A review of recent evidence," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(6), pages 2987-2997, June.
    17. Howden-Chapman, Philippa & Viggers, Helen & Chapman, Ralph & O’Sullivan, Kimberley & Telfar Barnard, Lucy & Lloyd, Bob, 2012. "Tackling cold housing and fuel poverty in New Zealand: A review of policies, research, and health impacts," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 134-142.
    18. Matthew Ranson & Lauren Morris & Alex Kats-Rubin, 2014. "Climate Change and Space Heating Energy Demand: A Review of the Literature," NCEE Working Paper Series 201407, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Dec 2014.
    19. Jensen, Robert T. & Miller, Nolan, 2008. "The Impact of the World Food Price Crisis on Nutrition in China," Working Paper Series rwp08-039, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    20. Tirado Herrero, Sergio & Ürge-Vorsatz, Diana, 2012. "Trapped in the heat: A post-communist type of fuel poverty," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 60-68.
    21. Dupas, Pascaline & Robinson, Jonathan, 2012. "The (hidden) costs of political instability: Evidence from Kenya's 2007 election crisis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 314-329.
    22. Hernández, Diana, 2016. "Understanding ‘energy insecurity’ and why it matters to health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 167(C), pages 1-10.
    23. O'Sullivan, Kimberley C. & Howden-Chapman, Philippa L. & Fougere, Geoff, 2011. "Making the connection: The relationship between fuel poverty, electricity disconnection, and prepayment metering," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 733-741, February.
    24. Melissa Dell & Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2013. "What Do We Learn from the Weather? The New Climate-Economy Literature," NBER Working Papers 19578, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    25. Yoshie Sano & Steven Garasky & Kimberly Greder & Christine Cook & Dawn Browder, 2011. "Understanding Food Insecurity Among Latino Immigrant Families in Rural America," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 111-123, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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