September 29, 2003

Trevon Logan Seminar II

The caloric elasticity of income in Mexico in the late 1990s was 1.1%--compared to 52% for the U.S. or 65% for Britain in 1888, or 37% for India in 1983.

Logan: "So I only have problems if there is a non-uniform distribution of chickens in the backyard."

DeLong: "But what does 'uniform' mean in this context:? A uniform contribution of chickens in the backyard to log household income is not a uniform distribution of chickens across households."

Romer; "Truer words were never spoken!"

Posted by DeLong at September 29, 2003 05:48 PM | TrackBack


"Caloric elasticity?" What's that when it's at home?

Posted by: Tom Slee on September 29, 2003 07:24 PM


As an aspiring econ grad student (crosses fingers) I'll take a stab:
Caloric elasticity of income is the percentage change of household caloric consumption with respect to the percent change of income. So, as income changes, how much does one's access to food change.
If one's food supply is not particularly affected by swings in income, caloric elasticity would be low (relatively inelastic).

Which would seem to be more true in rural settings where there are gardens and chickens to supplement formal income. Still, I didn't know that Mexico was all that rural anymore, or more to the point, that it was uniformly rural - which is the point I believe the Professor is making.

But I don't know how that household info. is's like the difference between average and median - if each household's elasticity is measured, and then averaged together, weighing each household as one, that is a far different thing than taking the whole country's food consumption and national income averaged together. Especially as inequality gets higher.

But I think the important image to come away with is your standard distribution bell curve populated by chickens. Or alternately, downtown Mexico City chock full of chickens; running onto the highway, in the elevators of office buildings...

Posted by: andrew on September 29, 2003 08:51 PM


Thanks for the explanation. I was pretty certain that caloric elasticity had something to do with trouser waistbands.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on September 30, 2003 12:08 AM


How good is the availability estimate? My wife's grandparents, in a mining village in Derbyshire, produced significant amount of their own food - potatoes, a pig.

How accurate is the needs estimate? It may reflect old anxieties about dearth not new ones about over-eating. Caloric restriction in rats (without other nutritional deficiencies) actually prolongs life.

The old socialist stereotype of the fat capitalist was true enough in the Victorian era; fat meant successful. Now the rich are thin and the poor fat.

Hughes' history of Australian transportation The Fatal Shore shows the astounding shipboard rations provided for the unfortunate transportees on the First Fleet in 1798 by a callous oligarchy determined to get rid of its underclass for good.

Posted by: James on September 30, 2003 02:39 AM


"Now the rich are thin and the poor fat."

Wouldn't that suggest a negative caloric elasticity, given andrew's very clear explanation? And yet apparently the US has a value of +52%.

Perhaps the problem is that "caloric elasticity" measures input only, and doesn't measure trips to the gym? Or perhaps the rich-thin/poor-fat image is an understandable misconception based on the small proportion of rich who come from Hollywood.

Posted by: Tom Slee on September 30, 2003 06:26 AM


High-calories aliments are inexpensives to get at the moment, what is hard, and expensive, is good quality food. So that elasticity may indicate that when income rises, the quality of the food bought rises.


Posted by: Antoni Jaume on September 30, 2003 09:22 AM


I dont know what to say, but i likeed it.

Posted by: La Battaglia Juliana on December 10, 2003 09:50 PM


Dreams are made to be destroyed. Nightmares are forever.

Posted by: Torre Leslie on January 10, 2004 02:10 AM


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