The Journal of Economic History


Nutrition and Well-Being in the Late Nineteenth Century

a1 Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, The Ohio State University, 410 Arps Hall, 1945 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43210; and Faculty Research Fellow, NBER. E-mail:


Using the 1888 Cost of Living Survey, I estimate the demand for calories of American and British industrial workers. I find that the income and expenditure elasticities of calories for American households are significantly lower than the corresponding elasticities for British households, suggesting that American industrial workers were nutritionally better off than their British counterparts. I further find that the calorie elasticity differential between the two countries was driven by the higher wages enjoyed in the United States. Additional analysis reveals that the relative price of calories was approximately 20 percent greater in Great Britain than in the United States.