Current Activities

Measuring Food Insecurity and Hunger

In March 2004, with ERS support, the Committee on National Statistics of the National Research Council (the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences) convened an expert panel to review USDA’s methods for measuring food insecurity and hunger in the U.S. population. It has been 10 years since the USDA’s measures were developed. A substantial body of survey data has been collected and used to conduct research on food security and hunger. The panel will review current methods and procedures and consider recommendations to enhance these methods for monitoring, evaluation, and related research purposes. Staff from ERS, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, and the Office of Management and Budget provided background information to the panel at its initial meeting in Washington, DC. Mark Nord

The Role of Homeownership in Wealth Accumulation by Rural Households

As part of ERS’s research program on the economics of rural housing, ERS and Kansas State University are examining rural-urban differences in household mortgage affordability, home equity, and net wealth accumulation over time. Homeownership is an important means to generate wealth. The extent to which owning a home generates accumulated wealth depends on the home’s value, holding period, rate of appreciation, and the household’s consumption of accumulated home equity. Preliminary results show that, compared with urban households, rural households have on average about 25 percent less net worth, their homes are worth half as much, and equity in those homes is 40 percent lower. These and other findings will be useful to USDA’s Rural Housing Service in their efforts to develop effective single-family housing assistance programs for low-income rural residents.

How Do Households, Sectors, and Countries Adjust to Policy Change?

In the United States and other countries, adjustment and change in the farm sector and rural economy is an ongoing process, with farm households, markets, and rural communities continually adapting to agricultural policy reform and changing market conditions. Because each segment of the farm and rural community faces unique conditions, ERS economists are engaged in a broad-ranging set of studies focusing on the diverse responses of countries, regions, commodity sectors, and farm households to fundamental policy adjustments. Research is intended to inform decisionmakers about the broader impacts of policy reform, and offer insights on developing mechanisms to facilitate adjustment among groups affected by policy change. Research in this area is available in the Farm Economy and Rural Economy & Population topic areas on the ERS website. Erik Dohlman and Stephen Vogel