Proposal preview

Inferring behaviors and standards of living from household budget data

This session presents studies of behaviors and standards of living based on household budget survey data. Large-scale surveys were carried out in most countries around the world during the decades around the turn of the century 1900. The detailed information available in these sources allow us to investigate aspects of the life of households and families that are otherwise difficult to study. Eight papers will be presented during the session covering different, but interrelated, aspects of behaviors and standards of living: life styles, diets and health, the nutritional history of an historical population, risk-sharing, income smoothing and intergenerational transfers in households, and consumer behavior as an indicator of immigrant integration.

Organizer(s)

  • Stefan Öberg University of Gothenburg stefan.oberg@gu.se Sweden

Session members

  • Brian A’Hearn, Pembroke College, University of Oxford
  • Nicola Amendola, Faculty of Economics, University of Rome Tor Vergata
  • Lars Fredrik Andersson, Geography and Economic History, Umeå University
  • Hanna Augustin, Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition, University of Gothenburg
  • Federico Belotti, Faculty of Economics, University of Rome Tor Vergata
  • Liselotte Eriksson, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies, Umeå University
  • Sergio Espuelas-Barroso, Department of Economic History, University of Barcelona
  • Michael R. Haines, Department of Economics, Colgate University
  • Alfonso Herranz-Loncan, Department of Economic History, University of Barcelona
  • Christer Lundh, Unit for Economic History, University of Gothenburg
  • Malin Nilsson, Unit for Economic History, University of Gothenburg
  • Paul Nystedt, Jönköping International Business School, Jönköping University
  • Stefan Öberg, Unit for Economic History, University of Gothenburg
  • Kota Ogasawara, Department of Industrial Engineering and Economics, School of Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology
  • Deborah Oxley, All Souls College, University of Oxford
  • Concepció Patxot-Cardoner, Department of Economic Theory, University of Barcelona
  • Guadalupe Souto-Nieves, Department of Applied Economics, Autonomous University of Barcelona
  • Giovanni Vecchi, Faculty of Economics, University of Rome Tor Vergata

Discussant(s)

  • Peter H. Lindert Economics, University of California - Davis phlindert@ucdavis.edu
  • Evan Roberts College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota eroberts@umn.edu

Papers

Panel abstract

This session presents studies of behaviors and standards of living based on household budget survey data. Large-scale surveys were carried out in most countries around the world during the decades around the turn of the century 1900. The detailed information available in these sources allow us to investigate aspects of the life of households and families that are otherwise difficult to study. Eight papers will be presented during the session covering different, but interrelated, aspects of behaviors and standards of living: life styles, diets and health, the nutritional history of an historical population, risk-sharing, income smoothing and intergenerational transfers in households, and consumer behavior as an indicator of immigrant integration.

1st half

Risk Sharing in Working-class Households in Interwar Japan

Kota Ogasawara

This study analyzes whether risk was shared efficiently, and what category of consumption was robust against shocks in factory workers' households in Osaka in the early 1920s. We found that the factory workers could maintain their households in the sense that they could cope with payments for necessary expenditures, such as rent, utilities, and transportation. The results also suggest that income from loans, gifts, assets, and other temporary sources significantly increased if any shocks decreased household income. Several historical statistical reports suggest that microfinance institutions, formal savings institutions, and informal gifts have contributed to mitigating the vulnerability of poverty. We found that expenditures for children's education were also robust against idiosyncratic income shocks. This may suggest that the aforementioned formal and informal institutions supported human capital accumulation in the early 20th century, which accelerated the postwar rapid economic growth in Japan.

This study analyzes whether risk was shared efficiently, and what category of consumption was robust against shocks in factory workers' households in Osaka in the early 1920s. We found that the factory workers could maintain their households in the sense that they could cope with payments for necessary expenditures, such as rent, utilities, and transportation. The results also suggest that income from loans, gifts, assets, and other temporary sources significantly increased if any shocks decreased household income. Several historical statistical reports suggest that microfinance institutions, formal savings institutions, and informal gifts have contributed to mitigating the vulnerability of poverty. We found that expenditures for children's education were also robust against idiosyncratic income shocks. This may suggest that the aforementioned formal and informal institutions supported human capital accumulation in the early 20th century, which accelerated the postwar rapid economic growth in Japan.

Poverty or privacy. Household strategies for coping with short-term variations in male incomes in early twentieth century Sweden

Malin Nilsson, Stefan Öberg

Low-income households must use all available ways to deal with sudden reductions of income. This study investigates how short-term variation in the male, breadwinner income influenced the size of other incomes: women’s labor market incomes, incomes from boarders and lodgers, incomes from children, gifts, insurances etcetera. The sources allow us to follow all incomes of more than one thousand households week-by-week for a whole year. We can therefore investigate both the between- and the within-household variation in incomes. We find that while there was often a negative association between the level of the male income and the income from other sources, the influences from the former on the latter were less clear. One way that the households adjusted to short-term variations in income was through boarders and lodgers. Families were quick to terminate their deals with boarders and lodgers when male incomes improved, thus showing a strong preference for privacy.

Low-income households must use all available ways to deal with sudden reductions of income. This study investigates how short-term variation in the male, breadwinner income influenced the size of other incomes: women’s labor market incomes, incomes from boarders and lodgers, incomes from children, gifts, insurances etcetera. The sources allow us to follow all incomes of more than one thousand households week-by-week for a whole year. We can therefore investigate both the between- and the within-household variation in incomes. We find that while there was often a negative association between the level of the male income and the income from other sources, the influences from the former on the latter were less clear. One way that the households adjusted to short-term variations in income was through boarders and lodgers. Families were quick to terminate their deals with boarders and lodgers when male incomes improved, thus showing a strong preference for privacy.

The evolution of public and private transfers between age groups in Spain: the impact of demography and the welfare state

Alfonso Herranz-Loncan, Sergio Espuelas-Barroso, Concepció Patxot-Cardoner, Guadalupe Souto-Nieves

This paper is part of the National Transfer Accounts project (NTA), which estimates transfers between age groups in different economies today. This paper extends the Spanish estimates to the past, to analyse changes in intergenerational transfers associated to the demographic transition and welfare state development. We will use the Spanish HBS (starting in 1958) and, for earlier periods, the available evidence on demography, public finance and labour and capital markets.

This paper is part of the National Transfer Accounts project (NTA), which estimates transfers between age groups in different economies today. This paper extends the Spanish estimates to the past, to analyse changes in intergenerational transfers associated to the demographic transition and welfare state development. We will use the Spanish HBS (starting in 1958) and, for earlier periods, the available evidence on demography, public finance and labour and capital markets.

Consumer behavior and immigrant assimilation - A comparison of the United States, Britain and Germany, 1889/1890

Michael R. Haines

This paper examines differences in the consumption patterns of immigrants and native born. It utilizes household-level budget data for the USA, Great Britain and Germany from 1889/90 to estimate the full Almost Ideal Demand System with demographic and other covariates. Although differences by ethnicity existed, both British and German immigrants to the United States were closer in their consumption patterns to workers in the area of destination than in the area of origin.

This paper examines differences in the consumption patterns of immigrants and native born. It utilizes household-level budget data for the USA, Great Britain and Germany from 1889/90 to estimate the full Almost Ideal Demand System with demographic and other covariates. Although differences by ethnicity existed, both British and German immigrants to the United States were closer in their consumption patterns to workers in the area of destination than in the area of origin.

2nd half

Lifestyle and morbidity: Ideals and behaviors in early twentieth century Sweden

Liselotte Eriksson, Lars Fredrik Andersson, Paul Nystedt

Ideals regarding a healthy lifestyle changed during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. The ‘hygiene movement’ meant an increased focus on health and hygiene in general and increased nationalism and the development of the welfare state turned health from being a private to being a public moral concern. This paper focuses on Sweden and trace the changing perception of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ employing archives of health insurance society recommendations, and by using household budget surveys to identify working class lifestyle and living conditions in relation to recommendations concerning alcohol, hygiene and vegetables. We further examined the reported sickness days/benefits and health insurance cover in order to identify potential differences in selection and morbidity among the households surveyed. This can advance the analysis of selection in insurance markets and our understanding of lifestyle beliefs and experiences in relation to morbidity at the turn of the twentieth century.

Ideals regarding a healthy lifestyle changed during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. The ‘hygiene movement’ meant an increased focus on health and hygiene in general and increased nationalism and the development of the welfare state turned health from being a private to being a public moral concern. This paper focuses on Sweden and trace the changing perception of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ employing archives of health insurance society recommendations, and by using household budget surveys to identify working class lifestyle and living conditions in relation to recommendations concerning alcohol, hygiene and vegetables. We further examined the reported sickness days/benefits and health insurance cover in order to identify potential differences in selection and morbidity among the households surveyed. This can advance the analysis of selection in insurance markets and our understanding of lifestyle beliefs and experiences in relation to morbidity at the turn of the twentieth century.

Long-term trends in nutritional intake in Sweden - nineteenth century until today

Christer Lundh, Deborah Oxley, Stefan Öberg

The escape from hunger is an as recent as dramatic change in human history. Most previous research into this change has focused on the availability of food energy. This is indeed one of the most important aspect for the nutrition of historical populations, but we argue that we also need to consider the ‘quality’ of the food, not just the quantity. We try to do so for the case of Sweden by providing estimates of the food available using the food balance sheet methodology. We then go on to compare these estimates with estimates of consumption based on household budget surveys. In this way we can provide an overview of the history of nutrition in Sweden and also go beyond the aggregate trend and provide examples of what people actually ate during different phases of the escape from hunger.

The escape from hunger is an as recent as dramatic change in human history. Most previous research into this change has focused on the availability of food energy. This is indeed one of the most important aspect for the nutrition of historical populations, but we argue that we also need to consider the ‘quality’ of the food, not just the quantity. We try to do so for the case of Sweden by providing estimates of the food available using the food balance sheet methodology. We then go on to compare these estimates with estimates of consumption based on household budget surveys. In this way we can provide an overview of the history of nutrition in Sweden and also go beyond the aggregate trend and provide examples of what people actually ate during different phases of the escape from hunger.

The association between dietary diversity and longevity

Hanna Augustin, Christer Lundh, Stefan Öberg

Improving nutrition has been suggested as one of the most important contributing factors for mortality decline. We argue that important to bring other aspects of nutrition into the picture than “just” the adequacy of the intake of food energy. A varied diet is important for getting sufficient amounts of not only food energy but also different macro and micro nutrients. We use an index of dietary diversity to estimate the degree of variation in the diet of households in Sweden in the early twentieth century. If an adequate intake of different nutrients was indeed important for health, we expect that the people living in households with a higher degree of dietary diversity live longer. We investigate this using the Longh cohort data containing rich information of working-class families in the early twentieth century Swedish towns.

Improving nutrition has been suggested as one of the most important contributing factors for mortality decline. We argue that important to bring other aspects of nutrition into the picture than “just” the adequacy of the intake of food energy. A varied diet is important for getting sufficient amounts of not only food energy but also different macro and micro nutrients. We use an index of dietary diversity to estimate the degree of variation in the diet of households in Sweden in the early twentieth century. If an adequate intake of different nutrients was indeed important for health, we expect that the people living in households with a higher degree of dietary diversity live longer. We investigate this using the Longh cohort data containing rich information of working-class families in the early twentieth century Swedish towns.

The Historical Household Budgets (HHB) Project Data Methods and Findings

Brian A’Hearn, Nicola Amendola, Federico Belotti, Giovanni Vecchi

The Historical Household Budgets (HHB, http://hhbproject.com) aims to broaden and deepen our understanding of the distribution of well-being around the world over the past three centuries. The project gives new insight into the history of poverty and inequality, by producing measures of living standards that are as rich and detailed as those available for the present day, and comparable over long time periods and across countries. We argue that household budgets are the best starting point for this enterprise, and we show that if one knows where to look, historical family budgets are more abundant than might be suspected. Statistical techniques have been developed to handle the associated problems of small, incomplete, and unrepresentative samples. We review the first results of the HHB project, with evidence ranging from rural Italy in the 1880s and 1930s, to the UK in the early 1900s, to Francophone Africa since the mid 20th-century.

The Historical Household Budgets (HHB, http://hhbproject.com) aims to broaden and deepen our understanding of the distribution of well-being around the world over the past three centuries. The project gives new insight into the history of poverty and inequality, by producing measures of living standards that are as rich and detailed as those available for the present day, and comparable over long time periods and across countries. We argue that household budgets are the best starting point for this enterprise, and we show that if one knows where to look, historical family budgets are more abundant than might be suspected. Statistical techniques have been developed to handle the associated problems of small, incomplete, and unrepresentative samples. We review the first results of the HHB project, with evidence ranging from rural Italy in the 1880s and 1930s, to the UK in the early 1900s, to Francophone Africa since the mid 20th-century.