Heat or Eat? Cold-Weather Shocks and Nutrition in Poor American Families

Published in: American Journal of Public Health, v. 93, no. 7, July 2003, p. 1149-1154

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2003

by Jay Bhattacharya, Thomas DeLeire, Steven Haider, Janet Currie

Read More

Access further information on this document at www.ajph.org

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

OBJECTIVES: The authors sought to determine the effects of cold-weather periods on budgets and nutritional outcomes among poor American families. METHODS: The Consumer Expenditure Survey was used to track expenditures on food and home fuels, and the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was used to track calorie consumption, dietary quality, vitamin deficiencies, and anemia. RESULTS: Both poor and richer families increased fuel expenditures in response to unusually cold weather. Poor families reduced food expenditures by roughly the same amount as their increase in fuel expenditures, whereas richer families increased food expenditures. CONCLUSIONS: Poor parents and their children spend less on and eat less food during cold-weather budgetary shocks. Existing social programs fail to buffer against these shocks.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.