Publications

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  • Price Trends Are Similar for Fruits, Vegetables, and Snack Foods

    ERR-55, March 12, 2008

    Evidence suggest that a wide class of unprepared fresh fruits and vegetables-those that have not been combined with labor-saving attributes-display declining prices along with prices of commonly consumed dessert and snack foods

  • How Low-Income Households Allocate Their Food Budget Relative to the Cost of the Thrifty Food Plan

    ERR-20, August 25, 2006

    Low-income households that participate in the Food Stamp Program can achieve a healthy diet if they use the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) as a guide for their food shopping. Most studies measuring the degree to which low-income households follow the TFP have compared total household food expenditures-for food at home as well as food away from home-to the TFP. The present study looked at total expenditures, but the emphasis is on how low-income households allocate their budget relative to the TFP for food at home. To determine whether some types of households are more likely than others to budget their food purchases in accordance with TFP benchmarks, and to identify households that might benefit most from nutrition education programs, the study compared actual and TFP expenditures for four household categories.

  • Retail-Farm Price Margins and Consumer Product Diversity

    TB-1899, April 01, 2002

    This bulletin provides an alternative approach for computing retail-farm price margins. Current published estimates of retail-farm price margins are calculated assuming that food markets are comprised of identical firms producing, in fixed-factor proportions, a homogeneous set of final food products. The approach presented here relaxes these assumptions by relying on an expenditure-based measure, justified by the Generalized Composite Commodity Theorem, that reflects consumer demand for the many different elementary food products associated with a modern food market. This measure allows a direct link between consumer demand for diverse elementary products and food quality and marketing services where increases in retail-farm price margins, for example, can be traced to increases in consumer purchases of high-value products. Retail-farm price margins based on the alternative approach are estimated here for seven major U.S. food markets for each year from 1980-97. Although the alternative retail-farm price margins and the currently published estimates show similar trends, they also show significant differences, particularly in more recent years, that can be traced to shifts in increased consumer demand for marketing services.

  • Household Food Spending by Selected Demographics in the 1990s

    AIB-773, August 15, 2001

    Average per-person total food expenditures, adjusted for inflation, declined about 7 percent between 1990 and 1998, from $2,189 to $2,037. This decline resulted primarily from the average at-home food expenditures per person declining by about 6 percent and the away-from-home food expenditures declining by about 8 percent. Price-adjusted food spending reflects changes in the real price of food as well as any quantity adjustments made by consumers. However, the national average masks the fact that some population subgroups had significantly higher or lower food expenditures than average. For example, while total food spending declined for all demographic groups except female-headed and Black households, these two demographic groups still had the lowest per capita spending. In contrast to this, per-person total food expenditures were greatest for households in the highest income quintile, for one-person households, and for house-holds with heads between 55 and 64 years of age.

  • Forecasting Consumer Price Indexes for Food: A Demand Model Approach

    TB-1883, March 01, 2000

    Forecasting food prices is an important component of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's short-term outlook and long-term baseline forecasting activities. A food price-forecasting model is developed by applying an inverse demand system, in which prices are functions of quantities of food use and income. Therefore, these quantity and income variables can be used as explanatory variables for food price changes. The empirical model provides an effective instrument for forecasting consumer price indexes of 16 food categories. ERS AutoFAX summary document # 01733. Contact: khuang@ers.usda.gov.

  • Changing Consumer Food Prices: A User's Guide to ERS Analyses

    TB-1862, June 01, 1997

    ERS uses different economic models to estimate the impact of higher input prices on consumer food prices. This technical bulletin compares three ERS models. In the first two models (referred to as shortrun models), neither consumers nor food producers respond to market prices. In the third model (a longrun model), both consumers and food producers respond to changing prices. The authors simulated the impact of a higher energy price on consumer food prices. The empirical findings are consistent with expected market responses. In the short run, the effect of an increase in the price of energy is fully (or nearly fully) passed on to consumers, because neither food producers nor consumers can immediately respond to changing prices. In the long run, however, the price response of food producers and consumers serves to mitigate the increase in consumer food prices.