CHICAGO, July 10 (Xinhua) -- New parents spend more money on fresh fruits and vegetables than before having children, according to a study posted on the website of the University of Michigan (UM).
For the study, the researchers used a large nationally representative sample called Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel dataset. Every year, data from between 40,000 to 60,000 households nationwide are collected from panelists that use at-home scanners to record their purchases. Nielsen also collects number of children, race/ethnicity, household income and other demographic information.
The study looked at participants from 2007 to 2015 who were most likely to become parents, and included data from 21,939 households of adults aged 25-49.
Product codes were supplied by Nielsen and used to categorize each scanned purchase as grocery, and then further categorized as type of produce and storage mechanism: say fresh, canned, frozen, other. In all, 73,672 observations were included in the study.
In the 508 households that became new parents, researchers found that they increased the percentage of their budget that they spent on produce to 12 percent, up from 10 percent.
To be specific, the proportion of the grocery budget spent on fruit increased by 21 percent and the proportion spent on vegetables increased by 10 percent compared to before they were parents. The higher spending on fruits and vegetables was due to an increase in money spent on fresh produce.
Meanwhile, there were no meaningful changes in expenditures of canned or frozen produce.
When researchers looked closer, they found this increase was only seen in middle and higher income families, those earning 185 percent above the poverty level or above 39,000 dollars for a family of three in 2019.
"The effect is driven by higher income households. Lower income households are not changing their produce purchases when they become parents," said lead author Betsy Cliff, who recently received her doctoral degree from the Department of Health Management and Policy at the UM School of Public Health. "This difference in produce purchases based on income shows one potential source of disparities in nutrition and could contribute to health consequences down the line."
Cliff hopes the findings will help others come up with interventions for parents, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
The limitation of the study is: the research only tracked what people are buying but not what people are actually eating.
The study has been published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.