As a Share of Household Spending, U.S. Has Most Affordable Food in World & It's Never Been Better
We hear reports all the time that real household incomes are stagnant or falling, the middle class is disappearing, household wealth has declined, and income inequality is rising. All of those reports might make one think that the standard of living for the average American is bad and getting worse. But here's one basic measure of a country's standard of living that shows Americans are better off than their consumer counterparts anywhere in the world: The share of household consumption expenditure on food consumed at home, see table below (USDA data here).
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.
Bottom Line: As a share of our disposable income, food in the U.S. has never been cheaper than it was in 2010 (more recent data are not yet available). And Americans spend less on food as a share of our household expenditures than consumers anywhere else in the world.
| Share of Household Spending |
on Food, 2010
|Hong Kong, China||12.1|
|United Arab Emirates||14.5|