Robert J. Samuelson writes in Newsweek about the 2010 edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States:

Food is cheaper here than almost anywhere else. In 2007, only about 6.9 percent of U.S. consumer spending went for food at home; Germans spent more (11.4 percent), as did Italians (14.5 percent) and Mexicans (24.2 percent).

The statistics are available in table 1323 of the the International Statistics section of the Statistical Abstract. Table 1323 is titled “Percent of Household Final Consumption Expenditures Spent on Food, Alcohol, and Tobacco Consumed at Home by Selected Countries: 2007″. The statistics cited by Mr Samuelson are for food (not alcohol or tobacco) consumption.

It seems to me that the amount consumers spend on food consumed at home depends on:

  • the quantity of food purchased for consumption at home
  • food prices
  • the proportion of food consumed outside the home.

Mr Samuelson concluded that food prices are lower in the US. He drew this conclusion because US consumers spend less on food consumed at home than people in some other named countries.

Table 1323 provides no evidence to support that conclusion. One could just as easily conclude that US consumers buy less food than consumers in other countries. But I suspect that the more likely interpretation of the statistics is that consumers in the US eat more away from home than people elsewhere.