The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Engel’s Law

  • Martin Browning
Reference work entry


Engel’s law states that food is not a luxury. This is one of the earliest empirical regularities in economics and also one of the most robust. The widespread finding is that regressions of food expenditures, quantities or budget shares on income or total expenditure and other variables such as prices, demographics and regional dummies uniformly imply that the income elasticity of food is less than 1 (and greater than zero). For example, time series from individual countries, cross-sections within countries and cross-country analyses all find the same qualitative empirical finding.


Agriculture and economic development Equivalence scales Engel’s law 

JEL Classifications

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  1. Deaton, A., and J. Muellbauer. 1986. On measuring child costs: With applications to poor countries. Journal of Political Economy 94: 720–744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Browning
    • 1
  1. 1.