Engel's Law


DEFINITION of 'Engel's Law '

An economic theory introduced in 1857 by Ernst Engel, a German statistician, stating that the percentage of income allocated for food purchases decreases as income rises. As a household's income increases, the percentage of income spent on food decreases while the proportion spent on other goods (such as luxury goods) increases.

For example, a family that spends 25% of their income on food at an income level of $50,000 will spend $12,500 on food. If their income increases to $100,000, it is not likely that they will spend $25,000 (25%) on food, but will spend a lesser percentage while increasing spending in other areas.

BREAKING DOWN 'Engel's Law '

Engel's Law similarly states that lower income households spend a greater proportion of their available income on food than middle- or higher-income households. As food costs increase, both for food at home (such as groceries) and food away from home (for example, at a restaurant), the percentage spent by lower income households is expected to increase.

  1. Rational Behavior

    A decision-making process that is based on making choices that ...
  2. Socionomics

    The study of the relationship between social mood and social ...
  3. Behavioral Finance

    A field of finance that proposes psychology-based theories to ...
  4. Behavioral Economics

    The study of psychology as it relates to the economic decision ...
  5. Moore's Law

    An observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965. ...
  6. Market Psychology

    The overall sentiment or feeling that the market is experiencing ...
Related Articles
  1. Markets

    Consumer Spending As A Market Indicator

    What people buy and where they shop can provide valuable information about the economy.
  2. Options & Futures

    50 Years Of Consumer Spending

    Financially, decade has it MUCH worse than our parents and grandparents did, right? You may be surprised.
  3. Retirement

    Are You Saving Too Much?

    "Spend now! Don't worry about retirement," say some experts. Could they possibly be right?
  4. Economics

    Explaining Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price

    The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is just what it describes – the price manufacturers recommend that retailers charge for their goods.
  5. Investing Basics

    What Does In Specie Mean?

    In specie describes the distribution of an asset in its physical form instead of cash.
  6. Economics

    Calculating Cross Elasticity of Demand

    Cross elasticity of demand measures the quantity demanded of one good in response to a change in price of another.
  7. Personal Finance

    What to Collect: Apple Watch vs. Luxury Watches

    The "iWatch" is a new player in the luxury watch world. But will it stand the test of time? Some points for collectors to ponder.
  8. Fundamental Analysis

    Emerging Markets: Analyzing Colombia's GDP

    With a backdrop of armed rebels and drug cartels, the journey for the Colombian economy has been anything but easy.
  9. Investing

    The Quinoa Quandary for Bolivian Farmers

    Growing global demand for quinoa has impacted Bolivian farmers' way of life. Should the American consumer be wary of buying this product?
  10. Stock Analysis

    2 Reasons PepsiCo's Snacks Division is Crucial to Its Growth

    Understand the recent trends in the North American snacks market. Learn about the top two reasons why PepsiCo's snack division is crucial to its growth.
  1. What is the utility function and how is it calculated?

    In economics, utility function is an important concept that measures preferences over a set of goods and services. Utility ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the difference between an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and a VAR ...

    An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a company that manufactures a basic product or a component product, such as a ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Is the retail sector also affected by seasonal factors?

    Generally speaking, the retail sector is highly seasonal. Almost invariably, sales in the retail sector are highest in the ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What has the retail sector evolved to its current structure?

    Retail is the catch-all phrase for the sale of final goods to consumers; a retail transaction is considered an "end" and ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  2. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  3. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  4. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  5. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  6. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!