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

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

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9004.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9004.

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Date of creation: Jun 2002
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Publication status: published as Bhattacharya J., T. Deleire, S. Haider, and J. Currie. “Heat or Eat? Cold-Weather Shocks and Nutrition in Poor American Families." American Journal of Public Health 93, 7 (2003): 1149-1154.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9004
Note: CH HC
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. P. Wilde & C. Ranney, . "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.
  2. Jay Bhattacharya & Janet Currie, 2001. "Youths at Nutrition Risk: Malnourished or Misnourished?," NBER Chapters, in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 483-522 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. anonymous, 1999. "Banking relationships of lower-income families and the governmental trend toward electronic payment," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jul, pages 459-473.
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