The Role of Prices, Income, and References
In the U.S., lower income households have a less healthy consumption basket than higher income ones. This paper studies the drivers of such nutrition inequality. I use longitudinal home-scanner data to estimate a demand system on food products, and measure the contribution of prices, disposable income and preferences to nutrition inequality. Disposable income and preferences have a predominant and quantitatively similar role in explaining consumption basket differences across income groups. Instead, prices have a limited effect. Further, I merge nutritional label information to assess, through a series of counterfactual exercises, the effect of income subsidies on nutrition quality. For example, I show that increasing the budget of a low-income household to the average level of the higher income households (a 45% increase in food expenditures) leads to an increase in protein consumption of approximately 5% and a decrease in sugar consumption of approximately 10%.