How differently do people spend money on food?

By Hillary Sanders (@hillarymsanders), Data Scientist

A Kenyan living in poverty spends nearly half of their income on food, while an American living in poverty spends just 6%.

Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Annual Letter, 2012

These numbers are astounding, so we wanted to dig in a little deeper. We conduct a lot of research in Nigeria, so we decided to look into how Nigerians and Americans spend their money on food. Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa”, is home to 182 million people and boasts the world’s 20th largest economy. Let’s compare the Premise food product hierarchies and weights between Nigeria and the United States and dive in.

Comparing food product hierarchies in Nigeria vs. the United States (source: Premise)

Right away we can see how varied the American food expenses are compared to those in Nigeria. Nigerians spend about 57% of their food budget on things like cereals, legumes, and processed grains. These foods are major crops in Nigeria, and compared to other categories, very cheap per calorie. Americans, on the other hand, only spend 10.5% of their food budget on the same items; instead, they spend more on expensive categories like meat and dairy.

Meat, dairy, and eggs also show a stark contrast between these countries. Americans spend more than one-third of their food budget, or roughly 31.5%, on these items whereas Nigerians only spend 4.5%.

Not only are these populations spending vastly different amounts of their income on food, the types of food they purchase are just as different — that is, emblematic of our vast differences in diet, caloric intake and general ways of life.

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