Ernst Engel

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Engel, Ernst


Born Mar. 26, 1821, in Dresden; died Dec. 8, 1896, in Radebeul, near Dresden. German statistician.

Engel, who became head of the Prussian Statistical Bureau in 1860, is known for his study of the budget structure of proletarian families. Drawing on statistical data, he came to several conclusions that became known as Engel’s law, which in essence states that as family income rises, relative expenditures decline for food, change comparatively little for clothing, housing, heat, and light, and increase for cultural needs. It followed, therefore, that, other conditions remaining the same, the proportion of income spent on food could serve as an indicator of the level of prosperity of a given population group. Engel is also known as a critic of T. Malthus.

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