As Share Of Income, Americans Have The Cheapest Food In History And Cheapest Food On The Planet

Mark Perry
updated | Author's Website


The USDA recently updated its data on “Food expenditures as a share of disposable personal income,” and reported that in 2009, Americans spent 9.47% of their disposable income on food (5.55% on food at home and 3.93% on food away from home).  The share of income spent on food last year was just slightly higher than the 9.42% in 2008, which is the all-time record low (see top chart above).  

As just one example of many that explain why Americans have the cheapest foods in history (as a share of income), the bottom chart above shows the inflation-adjusted wholesale price of milk back to 1890.  The current wholesale price of milk, about $15 per hundred weight (cwt), is about half the price of 25 years ago, and about one-third the price of 50 years ago.     

And compared to other countries, there’s no other place on the planet that has cheaper food than the U.S. (2008 data here). The 5.5% of disposable income that Americans spend on food at home is less than half the amount of income spent by Germans (11.4%), the French (13.6%), the Italians (14.4%), and less than one-third the amount of income spent by consumers in South Africa (20.1%), Mexico (24.1%), and Turkey (24.5%), which is about what Americans spent DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION, and far below what consumers spend in Kenya (45.9%) and Pakistan (45.6%). 

More proof that just being alive today in American, you’ve already “won the lottery of life.”

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