Feast or Famine: The Welfare Impact of Food Price Controls in Nazi Germany

May 2015 | 136

Authors: Robin Winkler


How good was the standard of living in pre-war Nazi Germany? Some historians have argued that household food consumption in the 1930s was at least as high as in the Weimar Republic, in spite of militarisation. This article provides new evidence against this view by demonstrating that food price controls significantly distorted consumption patterns. We estimate that involuntary substitution effects cost average working-class households 7% of their disposable income. Consumer welfare in Nazi Germany was thus meaningfully lower than observed consumption levels and prices suggest. Our finding is based on microeconometric welfare analysis of detailed budget data for 4,376 individual German households surveyed in 1927 and 1937.

JEL Codes: N14, N34, D12, D52

Keywords: economic history, economic development, standard of living, consumer welfare, Germany


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