Protecting Calorie Intakes against Income Shocks

from Health Economics at on July 10, 2017 at 05:34AM

Whether and how changes in economic circumstances or household income affect individuals’ diet and nutritional intakes is of substantial interest for policy purposes. This paper examines the extent to which, as well as how individuals protect their calorie intakes in the face of unanticipated shocks to household income. Our results suggest that households use substitution, disproportionally cutting back spending on non-foods to protect spending on foods, change the composition of the consumption basket, and increase the consumption of ‘cheaper’ calories. Taken together, we find that total nutritional intakes are almost fully protected against income shocks, with only very small changes in actual calorie intakes. Specifically, we find that 12-16% of the effect of permanent income shocks on food expenditures is transmitted to calorie intakes, with 84–88% protected through insurance mechanisms.