Combs Spouts Off

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The cheapest food on the planet

Posted by Richard on July 6, 2012

Here’s something else from Mark J. Perry, the cockeyed optimist of the dismal science:

Relative to our total household spending, Americans have the cheapest food on the planet – only 6.6% of the average household budget goes to food consumed at home.  European countries like Spain, France and Norway spend twice that amount on food as a share of total expenditures, and consumers in countries like Turkey, China and Mexico spend three times as much of their budgets on food as Americans.

Another measure of food affordability, total food expenditures in the U.S. as a share of disposable income (see chart above, USDA data here), shows that food has become more affordable in the U.S. over time.  Spending on food has fallen from more than 25% of the average American’s income in 1933 to only 9.4% in 2010, an all-time low.  Between 1980 and 2010, the share of disposable income spent on food in the U.S. fell from 13.2% to 9.4%, which is equivalent to almost a 4% increase in the average American’s disposable income over the last 30 years.   And a number of countries in the list below spend more on food as a share of household expenditures today than Americans spent on food during the Great Depression.

Americans spend less on food as a share of our household expenditures than consumers anywhere else in the world.

Most goods and services have gotten cheaper, better, or both over time. It’s called progress. I can think of two main exceptions, which keep taking a larger and larger share of the average American’s income. Both are largely under the control of the government, with lots of regulations and subsidies (!): education and health care.

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