American families pinched by the recession that began in 2007 made cuts in their budgets on purchases ranging from cars to television to new homes. Less visible, but no less important, many families changed their food purchasing habits.
Research by the United States Department of Agriculture shows that food purchases declined by around 5 percent on average during the recession (the largest decline in 25 years). As the figure below illustrates, before the recession households in the highest income quintile spent about triple the amount of what the lowest quintile spent on food (the figures are unadjusted, so they do not account for family size, region, etc.). The largest cuts were in the middle of the income distribution (12 percent), and the top (6 percent), but the cuts in the bottom quintile were very slight (about 1 percent – more on this in a moment).
There’s a nice brief from Brookings about the economy and patterns in marriage in the United States. Here are a few highlights:
- The marriage rate among young people continues to decrease, but the change is long-term and is not correlated with economic conditions. The divorce rate has also decreased.
- The median age for marriage continues to rise (ex. 28 for men in 2009, compared to 23 in 1970)
- More people are getting married for fun (hedonic marriages) rather than for the gains from specialization that come from traditional marriages in which a wife specializes in housework and a man specializes in labor market work (Gary Becker marriages). Continue reading
The U.S. Census Bureau has just released its 2009 poverty estimates to much fanfare and press coverage. The headline statistic: 44 million people, roughly 1 in 7 Americans, was in poverty in 2009. Continue reading
However hard we try to communicate our work, inequality research is often tucked away on the unread pages of newspapers – if it even gets that far. So it’s slightly shocking that a book presenting evidence that ‘more equal societies almost always do better’ has become the must-read political book of the year in the UK. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s The Spirit Level has not only been endlessly debated in the media, but has been cited approvingly by the British (Conservative) Prime Minister, and as I write is even at #15 in the amazon.co.uk bestsellers list (just behind the third Twilight book…). But the inevitable backlash has been public and fierce, and we’re now at a point that we can stop to think: has the book helped change the terms of debate in British politics? And more controversially: has the book actually done more harm than good in tackling inequality?