IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Food Expenditure, Food Preparation Time and Household Economies of Scale

Listed author(s):
  • Victoria Vernon

    (University of Texas at Austin)

This paper is concerned with the effect of household size on the allocation of household money and time to food consumption. A broad literature has examined household economies of scale. Since food is a private good, it might be expected that larger households, which could economize on shared goods such as housing, would spend more per equivalent household member on food. However, recent studies have found the opposite result: for households with similar total expenditures, larger families spend less per capita on food. This paper examines household time inputs and shows that economies of scale in preparing food can explain this result. I introduce economies of scale into a household production model. The size of the household changes both the relative price of a unit of food and the time required to prepare it, affecting household demand for both inputs to food production. Larger households can achieve the same level of consumption at lower expenditure by substituting cheaper production time for more expensive ingredients. Using household expenditure and time-use survey data from Russia, I estimate the effect of changing household size on food expenditures and food-related time. The estimates indicate that doubling the size of household reduces per capita food expenditure by over 30% and per capita preparation time by about 75% in households with two and more people. A married man from a two adult household spends three times less time preparing food than a single man living alone. For a woman, a transition from a single to a two-person households results in more modest time saving of 45% in case such transition is not a result of a marriage. A married woman enjoys no time savings at all, while a woman with children spends more time in food-related activities than her single counterparts. I also find that the time intensity of meals increases with household size, but that the quality of meals is unaffected by changes in household size.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Labor and Demography with number 0412005.

in new window

Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: 20 Dec 2004
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0412005
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 50
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Reuben Gronau & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2008. "The Demand for Variety: A Household Production Perspective," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 562-572, August.
  2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2003:93:7:1149-1154_3 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2004. "Consumption vs. Expenditure," NBER Working Papers 10307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Gibson, John, 2002. " Why Does the Engel Method Work? Food Demand, Economies of Size and Household Survey Methods," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 64(4), pages 341-359, September.
  5. Bhattacharya, J. & DeLeire, T. & Haider, S. & Currie, J., 2003. "Heat or Eat? Cold-Weather Shocks and Nutrition in Poor American Families," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 93(7), pages 1149-1154.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0412005. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (EconWPA)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.