May 24, 2013

U.S. stands out as a rich country where a growing minority say they can’t afford food


During tough economic times many people around the world find it difficult to afford life’s basic necessities.  Nearly half (a median of 49%) of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center in developing economies and a quarter (25%) in emerging markets say that, at some point in the past year, they have been unable to afford food that their families needed.

Such deprivation is closely related to national wealth. For example, in Australia, Canada and Germany – three of the most well-off countries surveyed – roughly one-in-ten say they have struggled in the past year to pay for enough to eat. Meanwhile, in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Senegal – among the poorest countries surveyed – half or more say food for their family has been hard to come by.

The United States is an outlier from this pattern. Despite being the richest country in the survey, nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they had trouble putting food on the table in the past 12 months. This is up from just 16% who reported such deprivation in 2007, the year before the Great Recession began.

Americans’ reported level of deprivation is closer to that experienced by Indonesians or Greeks than it is the British or the Canadians. In fact, the percentage of Americans who say they could not afford the food needed by their families at some point in the last year is three times that in Germany, more than twice that in Italy and Canada.

Topics: Economics and Personal Finances

  1. Photo of Bruce Stokes

    is director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center.