High Food Prices Didn't Cause as Much Poverty as Reported

Prairie Gleanings

In 2008, researchers released a flurry of research linking poverty to increased food prices. Turns out, the research was junk.

Published on: February 21, 2012
Remember all those news reports about the explosion in food costs in 2008? I distinctly recall one farmer saying the local news reported that the price of popcorn at the movie theater was going up because so the price of corn was so high.

Ignorance aside, there were a lot of reports about how many households had fallen to poverty levels due to rising food costs. It turns out many of these reports were over exaggerated.

According to a report published by University of Illinois’ Carl Nelson, Lia Nogueira and Benjamin Wood, the number of households that moved into the poverty level may have been over exaggerated by as much as 60%.

“The World Bank Studies reported that 13 million households were moved into poverty, but that number was overestimated by about 6 million households because it didn't take into account the ability for households to substitute foods in their diet,” Nelson notes.

How does this type of stuff happen? How could they completely ignore a consumer’s ability to substitute pork for beef? Perhaps the internet era has affected the science community in the same way it has journalists. They want to be first. Getting the facts straight are secondary.

Regardless of why this happened, it’s unacceptable. Unfortunately, our media outlets (love them or hate them) are very fickle. In 2008, food prices were a hot topic. Not so much today. The initial wave of bad science gets reported like crazy. But, when someone, such as U of I, comes along to set the record straight, no one cares. It was yesterday’s topic.

Kudos to the U of I team for digging into this and setting the facts straight.