Editors' Pick Charts of Note 2018

This chart gallery is a collection of the best Charts of Note from 2018. These charts were selected by ERS editors as those worthy of a second read because they provide context for the year’s headlines or share key insights from ERS research.

As income rises, households tend to devote a larger share of their at-home food spending to vegetables

Monday, April 16, 2018

ERS researchers used household-level data from Information Resources Inc. to investigate how food spending patterns differ by household income and age of the household food shopper. The researchers found that as per person income rises, households spend a larger portion of their at-home food expenditures on vegetables. This was true for all four generations examined, though the increase for Traditionalists was small. Poorer Millennials assigned lower shares of at-home food spending to vegetables than Traditionalists and Baby Boomers with similar incomes. Millennials with higher incomes apportioned more of their food budgets to vegetables, surpassing Traditionalists when per capita household income was around $30,000. The wealthiest Millennial households (per capita income greater than $50,000) dedicated about 8 percent of their food budgets to vegetables, compared to around 6 percent for the other generation groups in the same income decile. The rise in vegetable purchases among wealthier Millennials may reflect Millennials’ preference for healthy foods. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food Purchase Decisions of Millennial Households Compared to Other Generations, released December 2017.

SNAP households acquire about as many calories as other households but spend less

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Households may have similar food needs but different budgets with which to meet them. ERS researchers used data from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to estimate the number of calories acquired (purchased or obtained for free) and the money spent to get them for three groups: households participating in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), low-income non-SNAP households, and higher income non-SNAP households. Researchers adjusted for the age, gender, and number of household members using an adult equivalent measure. Average acquired calories per adult equivalent were similar for all three groups, but food expenditures were not. Expenditure estimates from FoodAPS data show that SNAP households spent roughly $37 less per adult equivalent per week on food than higher income non-SNAP households. SNAP households devoted less of their food dollars to purchases from restaurants and other away-from-home sources, and instead relied more on school meals and family and friends. For at-home foods, SNAP households may have visited lower priced stores or bought a different mix of foods to stretch their food budgets. This chart appears in the February 2018 Amber Waves article, "Supermarkets, Schools, and Social Gatherings: Where Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Other U.S. Households Acquire Their Foods Correlates with Nutritional Quality."

Labor’s share of the retail food dollar was up to 50.6 cents in 2016, driven by Americans’ appetite for eating out

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

In 2016—of a typical dollar spent by U.S. consumers at grocery stores and restaurants on domestically produced food—50.6 cents were received by hired labor in the form of salaries and benefits. That marked the second year in a row that labor’s share was over half of the food dollar, reflecting higher spending on eating out, as well as small increases in labor costs for foodservice workers over time. Foodservice labor—servers, cooks, and others—received 22.3 cents of the food dollar in 2016, up from 21.7 cents in 2015. Salaries and benefits for non-foodservice labor were down 0.3 cent from 2015. After foodservices, the next two largest sources of labor costs in 2016 were retailing and wholesaling (11.1 cents) and food processing and packaging (8.7 cents). Farm production relies less on hired labor than other food related industries do, and—combined with agribusinesses that provide specialized farm inputs—contributed only 2.1 cents of 2016’s food dollar labor costs. Many factors drive year-to-year changes in labor’s share of the food dollar, from the adoption of labor-saving technologies to changes in average wage rates. This chart is from ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product.