Studies on Hunger and the Demands for Cheap Dietary Staples of the Extreme Poor

Aug 2020 Hunger and the Demands for Cheap Dietary Staples of the Extreme Poor (Latest Revision: July 2021)

I construct a tractable structural model of a poor household’s demand for cheap dietary staples, and I use it to extrapolate the Equivalent Variation (EV) and Compensating Variation (CV) of an experimental price subsidy implemented in Hunan and Gansu, China by Jensen and Miller (2008). I find that the EV is between 2.9% and 10.5% of the household food expenditure pre-intervention and the CV is between 3.0% and 10.6%, depending on the treatment size and region. This model formalizes a hypothesis of the trade-offs that a poor household faces between satiating hunger and satisfying other needs. The main results are summarized in Figure 1. Figure 2 shows the household demands for cheap dietary staples and Figure 3 shows the household indifference curves maps in each Chinese region. These 3 figures were extrapolated from Jensen and Miller's experiment using the model I present in this paper.

JEL Classification: D12, I31, O12

Key words: hunger, inferior goods, Giffen goods, utility function, structural demand











March 2018 The Spanish crisis and its households' food consumption (Slides used at the MEA conference in 2018)

In this paper, we document that cheap sources of calories are an inferior good in Spain. For example, we show that bread, which provides a lot of calories per Euro spent relative to other foods, is an inferior good. We propose a metric to measure the impact on the welfare of households caused by the Spanish crisis. This project is still undergoing. I am developing this project with Jesus Rodriguez-Lopez and Yolanda Fatima Rebollo.


Dec 2016  Giffen Goods, the Survival Imperative, and the Irish Potato Culture: Comment

Davies (1994) creates a graphical model to explain the specialization in consumption of potatoes that happened in Ireland prior its 1845 famine. In this comment, first, I argue that Davies's theory cannot explain this specialization. Second, I argue that his theory lacks empirical support. And third, I argue that his paper has an incorrect implication of convex preferences.

March 2016 The History of Economic Thought about Upward Sloping Demands

This paper was published as Chapter 3 in my doctoral dissertation. It summarizes the literature on Giffen behavior (i.e., upward-sloping demands). This summary is presented historically, and it shows that the history of Giffen behavior is, in its essence, the history of Neoclassical Consumer Theory.


* Visit to Bayer-Monsanto with with our MSPE Students at UIUC (2019)


* Hiking for 8 days in the jungle of Guatemala with students from Monmouth College.


* At Monmouth College's organic garden with Dr. Engstrom.


Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3