The Cost of Subsistence

George J. Stigler
1945 Journal of Farm Economics  
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more » ... " and "expensive" diets have been recommended to consumers. Yet, so far as I know, no one has determined the minimum cost of obtaining the amounts of calories, protein, minerals, and vitamins which these studies accept as adequate or optimum. This will be done in the present paper, not only for its own interest but because it sheds much light on the meaning of conventional "low-cost" diets. This paper is organized under five headings, devoted to 1. The quantities of the various nutrients which should be contained in an average person's diet. 2. The quantities of these nutrients which are found in certain common foods. 3. The methodology of finding the minimum cost diet. The minimum cost diet in August 1939 and August 1945. Comparison with conventional low-cost diets. The curious may wish to turn first to Table 2, which gives the composition and cost of the most economical diets in August 1939 and 1944 for an active economist (weighing 70 kilograms) who lives in a large city. Nutritive Requirements The economist uses a production function to describe the relationship between the quantities of the productive services and the quantity of product. The product derived from an increment of productive service A is usually assumed (1) to diminish as the quantity of A increases, and (2) to depend upon the quantities of the other productive services used with A. This approach can be applied also to the relationship between quantities of nutrients and "health" (used here generically to describe strength, vigor, avoidance of disease, etc.). The findings of nutrition studies clearly indicate: 1. After certain minimum values of the nutrients are secured, additional quantities yield decreasing (and in some cases eventually negative) returns to health. 2. The optimum quantity of any nutrient depends upon the quantities of the other nutrients available.
doi:10.2307/1231810 fatcat:teeierszvjfwzfvxodrfsk6c2m