Friday, May 22, 2015

22/5/15: You are What (and Where) You Eat

For a half-decent Italian, food is a part of defining both the value and the meaning of existence. For other cultures, food is at the very least definitive of our connection to culture, family, history, land and so on.

Gabriela Farfan, Maria Eugenia Genoni and Renos Vakis of the World Bank looked the the consumption of food away from home across the developing world. And instead of positing aesthetic or value questions relating to food, they look at the impact that ready-to-eat food purchases have on poverty statistics in one developing country for which such data is available: Peru.

Per authors, "…Peru is a relevant context, with the average Peruvian household spending 28 percent of their food budget on food away from home by 2010."

So to the findings, then:

  1. "…accounting for food away from home results in extreme poverty rates that are 18 percent higher and moderate poverty rates that are 16 percent lower. These results are also consistent, in fact more pronounced, with poverty gap and severity measures." Why? Because factoring in food consumed away from home boosts overall consumption of those above extreme poverty levels, making extreme poverty look worse in relative terms. However, for the poor who are not extremely poor, adding food away from home recognises more accurately their relative well-being.
  2. "…consumption inequality measured by the Gini coefficient decreases by 1.3 points when food away from home is included, a significant reduction." Which is to say, systemic inequality falls. Why? Because the improved scores for middle, low-middle and working poor classes more than offset worsening poverty measurements for the extremely poor.
  3. "Finally, inclusion of food away from home results in a reclassification of households from poor to non-poor status and vice versa: 20 percent of the poor are different when the analysis includes consumption of food away from home. 

Full paper: Farfan, Gabriela and Genoni, Maria Eugenia and Vakis, Renos, "You are What (and Where) You Eat: Capturing Food Away from Home in Welfare Measures" (May 5, 2015, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 7257:

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