Who Shares the Meal? Social Differentiation in Family Eating Patterns and Its Determinants in Britain.

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Ewa JAROSZ, Centre for Time Use Research, Oxford University, United Kingdom
This paper examines social differentiation in eating patterns in Britain. It focuses on family meals among individuals with under-age children. Eating with family members has been associated with improvement in wellbeing, nutritional status, and school performance of the children. Modern lifestyles may pose a challenge to commensal eating for all groups, but the scale of the impact vary between social classes, with some groups at higher risk of shortening or skipping family meal time. Eating patterns are differentiated by individual’s social class; they have also been associated with educational attainment, work schedules, and household composition. The objective of this study is to disaggregate the effect of these variables. Using data from the 2014/2015 UK Time Use Survey I analyse the net effect of social class, education, income, work and family characteristics on the frequency and duration of family meals. Individuals in the highest occupational class dedicate more time overall to family meals. However, class effect becomes insignificant when other variables, such as education or income, are controlled for. This study finds that higher educated individuals have more frequent family meals, and more affluent individuals spend more time at the table with their household members. Work characteristics are associated with frequency of meals, but not with their duration. Finally, household composition matters for how people eat. Parents of younger children eat with their family members more frequently than parents of teenagers. Single parents, a notoriously time-poor category, spend the least amount of time eating with their families and have fewer commensal meals.