Weekend Dimmeu, Foodie Edition

Economists frequently dismiss diminishing marginal utility (dimmeu) of wealth for ethical and political concerns, but it is hard to avoid the concept when you start looking at the world.  For example, the poorest people cannot afford to pay people to watch their children and tend to inefficiently stay at home to watch their children, but they do not have the skills to educate their children and poor kids generally develop better in the average daycare.  Middle class people generally use some kind of daycare arrangement which is the most efficient arrangement due to economies of scale.  Upper class people get personal nannies, and if you are elite enough, you send your nanny to private chefs to learn how to make fancy foods for your kids. There are enough fancy people who desire to educate their children in the appreciation of fancy foods that businesses have sprung up to cater to this niche: marc&mark, is a new nanny-consulting service whose goal is to teach nannies to give kids, “the advantage of having a palate diversified enough to enjoy all of the delicious food from around the world.”  The business is run by former personal chefs of elite households and so they understand the whims of wealthy foodies. See Caroline Tell’s NYT article for more.

Stephanie Johnson …wanted her daughter to adopt a more refined and global palate, whether it’s a gluten-free kale salad or falafel made from organic chickpeas. …some fifth graders would rather feast on hand-delivered lunches of locally procured salmon over turkey on rye, the company is playing to moneyed, obsessive parents striving to tutor their children’s palate much the way they would their math skills.

“In our experience, so many city kids already eat an interesting diet, and we want to make it better,” Mr. Leandro said. “But if a kid is in a mac-and-cheese phase, we also want to help them out of it.”

These are the kind of occupations you see in a society of high inequality because this is what elite “job creators” desire.  On the other hand, when I lived in Taiwan in the early 1990s, inequality was low and the market produced an incredible diversity of delicious foods.  Cheap restaurants were efficient due to economies of scale (and retail grocers were remarkably inefficient) so it was just as expensive to eat out as to cook in and the Taiwanese rarely cooked at home.  Middle-class people create jobs too, but they are a different kind of job.

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