American Expenditure on EntertainmentExpenditure by the average American consumer unit (henceforth household) each year is substantial compared to what the poor in the world spend. Of the 200 million or so rich people globally, Americans make up the majority; in this decade, as determined by those in the World Data Lab, “the world’s top market segment will be America’s rich” (italicization added). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey (BLS CEX), entertainment spending made up 5.3% of the total average annual expenditure of American households in 2018. American spending on entertainment is considerable.

Collectively: Average American Households

Looking at the CEX, in 2018, average annual expenditures rose to $61,224, compared to $60,060 the year before. More specifically, spending on entertainment (EE) increased to $3,226, from $3,203 in 2017. (Inflation was higher than expenditure numbers in 2018. Nevertheless, consider that thousands of dollars went toward entertainment.) There were 131,439,000 households in the U.S. in 2018. When one multiplies that number by EE, one gets $424,022,214,000; hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on entertainment.

That amount of money is more considerable than the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 for the entire country of the United Arab Emirates (where Dubai and the tallest building in the world are), which was over $421 billion.

So what does the category of entertainment expenditure include in the BLS CEX?

  1. Fees and admissions, including admissions to sporting events and movies; fees for social organizations; recreational lessons; and recreation expenses on trips.

  2. Television, radio and sound equipment, including video game hardware and musical instruments.

  3. Pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment.

  4. Other entertainment equipment and services, including indoor exercise equipment, camping equipment, boats, photographic equipment and supplies and fireworks.

Just $2 billion of the $72.56 billion that Americans spent on pets in 2018 is what Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was at a minimum seeking to raise as of 7 August. That amount could immunize both those with high susceptibility to the coronavirus and health care workers in Gavi-supported countries, with doses that would be available for use where needed most. Gavi is a public-private partnership that has helped to immunize hundreds of millions of children since 2000; partners include the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

America’s Rich

By the end of 2020, there will be an average of $194 to spend per day per wealthy American; this is put forth in a Brookings Institution blog. Possibly an appropriate juxtaposition, in 2018, households and non-profit institutions serving households (NPISHs) final consumption expenditure per capita was $189 in Burundi, a country where most of the population is poor and which has the second lowest GDP in the world.

Using data from the 2018 CEX, one may learn something else concerning American expenditure on entertainment. The top 10% of highest income (before taxes) households in the U.S. had an average of 3.2 persons and spent an average annual expenditure of $142,554. That amounted to around $122 spent per day per person: each person spent approximately $6.64 a day on entertainment. Notice that the $122 is less than the $194 of America’s wealth. 

If each of the 42,134,400 persons of the above top 10% were to have given around $1.20, less than a fifth of what they expended on average on entertainment per day, that would be enough (at least in hard numbers) to meet the net funding requirements from June to November of this year about the World Food Programme in Burundi.

The Bigger Picture

Entertainment may not in and of itself be bad or good. One way that American expenditure on entertainment affects Americans is the amount of time they spend on entertainment. For example, in 2019, the BLS reports that watching television on average took up the most leisure time. Although Americans possibly can inform themselves about the poor in the world via television, Americans could use some of the time spent watching television to ask their representatives to support legislation that could help reduce poverty.

Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr

How the UN World Food Program Endeavors to End Hunger Through AccessAccording to the United Nations World Food Program, food production has risen to a point that enables the entire planet to be fed, even as the population is expected to grow. Yet, the world’s supply disproportionately meets the needs of all its inhabitants. Starvation kills more children in developing countries than some of the deadliest communicable diseases that are disseminating upon the impoverished. If the solution to starvation is not production than the solution must be to end hunger through access. The U.N. has put three plans into action based on this solution.

Warehouses of Hope

Warehouses of Hope is the U.N.’s first plan to end hunger through access. The former executive of the U.N. World Food Program, Josette Sheeran coined the phrase “Warehouses of Hope” which are essentially banks for food. The villages manage these banks. In addition, it can be unlocked with three different keys, entrusted to three different villagers. Although food assistance can help many people in many countries, food banks provide a more sustainable answer. Hundreds of villages have been able to independently provide for themselves and their children with these warehouses. The program is successful to the point that the villages established school feeding programs for the village children.

Lean season in developing countries is the time between harvests. It is when jobs, earnings and food all are in short supply. As a result, this can lead to severe cases of hunger and devastating effects on the community. The idea behind Warehouses of Hope is to take the food that is supplied in the banks out during the lean season. Additionally, the villager can put some of the food back during harvest with interest by adding 5-10% more to the warehouse. When the next lean season comes, the cycle repeats. the village can consistently end hunger through access.

One Meal in Exchange for Staying in School

The second plan to end hunger through access is One Meal in Exchange for Staying in School. School feeding programs have become much more of a priority in developing countries because it will set major advancements in motion towards reaching Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the program benefits are gaining more recognition, some communities face major obstacles in their ability to implement a school feeding program. The initiatives are costly. At the same time, in order for these programs to last, the communities need to be sure that they will be able to acquire local and consistent proportions of food.

In addition to supplying food, the children will benefit far more if interventions were put in place such as deworming. In addition, assuring that each child receives a proper amount of micronutrients in their meals will greatly benefit them. This will enhance children’s cognitive development. Moreover, the U.N. found that by offering one meal a day to children at school in developing countries, the enrollment escalated significantly, especially in young girls. Not only did it encourage attendance while providing crucial nutrition to these girls but it prolonged the span of their education. The program also decreased child marriage and nourished those who were pregnant. This will in turn decrease the risks of malnourished babies and concerning developmental consequences.

Digital Food

Digitial is the third plan of U.N.’s solution to end hunger through access. When food is available, the prices will rise. Consequently, this can still lead to scarcity amongst families in developing countries. The U.N.’s digital food cards replace the usual methods of food aid. Instead, it enables low-income families to go into regional markets and purchase nine items with the swipe of a card. Each purchase must be a locally produced and nutritious food item. These cards have created a significant rise in the dairy industry and a boost in local employment opportunities at shops and markets.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides us with a foundational understanding of the incapacitating effects of hunger. It very much foretells a globally dim future as hunger continues to plague society. Imagine a world where peace, security and stability allow the underserved to thrive. Without a human’s basic needs being met, that solidity will remain wishful thinking.

Amy Schlagel

Photo: Flickr