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Urban working-class food consumption and nutrition in Britain in 1904

Gazeley, Ian and Newell, Andrew (2015) Urban working-class food consumption and nutrition in Britain in 1904. Economic History Review, 68 (1). 101 - 122. ISSN 1468-0289

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Identification Number: 10.1111/ehr.12065

Abstract

This article re-examines the food consumption of working-class households in 1904 and compares the nutritional content of these diets with modern measures of adequacy. We find a fairly steep gradient of nutritional attainment relative to economic class, with high levels of vitamin and mineral deficiency among the very poorest working households. However, we conclude that the average unskilled-headed working household was better fed and nourished than previously thought. When proper allowance is made for the likely consumption of alcohol, household energy intakes were significantly higher still. We investigate the likely impact of contemporary cultural food distribution norms and conclude on the basis of the very limited evidence available that women may have received, on average, about 80 per cent of a man's share of the available food. We adjust energy requirements for likely higher physical activity rates and smaller stature and find that except among the poorest households, early twentieth-century diets were sufficient to provide energy for reasonably physically demanding work. These results are consistent with recent attempts to relate the available anthropometric evidence to long-run trends in food consumption. We also find that the lower tail of the household nutrition distribution drops away very rapidly, so that few households are estimated to have suffered severe food shortages.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14680289
Additional Information: © 2014 Economic History Society
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N33 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: Europe: Pre-1913
I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I1 - Health > I12 - Health Production: Nutrition, Mortality, Morbidity, Suicide, Substance Abuse and Addiction, Disability, and Economic Behavior
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2019 16:27
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2020 02:56
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/102756

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