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Inferring behaviour from household budget data

We examine key questions such as: were some workers willing to cut back on “essentials” to maintain appearances; what forms of credit were used to enable households to buy goods they couldn’t fund from that week’s wage (and how effective and efficient were they); how paid employment influenced access to resources within the household; and how firms adapted their marketing strategies to meet the requirements and realities of working-class budgeting.

· we show that families at the bottom end of the Edwardian white-collar income spectrum demonstrated middle-class status through observable consumption, at the cost of squeezing other expenditures, including ‘necessities’, such as food. This had negative economic impacts, lowering living standards due to inefficiently high budget shares for positional goods in order to demonstrate “distinction”. For more details see.

· we show that households made extensive use of expenditure-smoothing devices commonly ascribed to less developed economies. Families' reliance on expenditure-smoothing is shown to be inversely related to household income, while households also used these mechanisms more intensively during expenditure crisis phases of the family life cycle, especially the years immediately after new household formation. For more detail see.

· we explore how resources were allocated within the household, using data on discretionary leisure spending. Breadwinner–homemaker households were

· characterised by strong power imbalances that concentrated resources—especially for individualized expenditures—in the hands of those family members who engaged in paid labour.

· The 1930s witnessed an intense struggle between gas and electricity suppliers for the working class market, where the incumbent utility—gas—was also a reasonably efficient (and cheaper) General Purpose Technology for most domestic uses. We show that both utility providers developed strategies of credit provision and fuel tariffs that went at least some way toward meeting working-class household requirements, a process that was largely driven by competition between local gas and electricity undertakings. For more details please see.