Norms of Consumption

Norms of Consumption

 

economic indexes that characterize the levels of consumption and availability of material goods and services to the populace. Consumption norms are used in socialist countries for planning national economic development and raising the well-being of the working people. They are also used in economic and statistical analysis of the fulfillment of such plans.

Planned norms of consumption substantiate the norms of expenditures of social and cultural institutions that operate through the state budget, such as schools, nursery schools, crèche-kindergartens, and hospitals. For example, norms of monetary expenditures for food in hospitals are developed on the basis of specified norms of consumption for foodstuffs, worked out in advance by scientific and medical institutions and approved by the appropriate state administrative bodies. Housing and sanitation norms regulate the use of the societal housing stock. Norms of city planning envision specified levels of services to be provided to the populace by institutions such as hospitals, schools, nursery schools, créche-kindergartens, and trade and public catering enterprises. Also affected by norms are communal and household services and urban transportation and communications, as well as movie theaters, libraries, various other cultural institutions, sports facilities, and green belts of prescribed sizes. Norms of consumption used for current planning are revised regularly.

Norms of consumption for material goods and services can be condensed to form a standard consumption budget. Such budgets were introduced in the USSR as early as the 1920’s. They are used by planning agencies in the course of practical planning to substantiate decisions aimed at improving wages and raising the material well-being of the people. In the USSR, standards of consumption and availability are also calculated for the future; these represent a standard to guide practice over a fairly long period and are called rational consumption norms.

The most common of rational consumption norms are physiological, or scientifically substantiated, norms of food consumption. As the standard of living of working people in the USSR has risen, more meat, milk, eggs, and other animal products, as well as more fruits and vegetables, have been consumed. At the same time, per capita consumption of such foods as grain and potatoes has decreased. This reflects the trend toward improved diet as actual consumption draws closer to the rational consumption norm. In 1950, for example, per capita consumption of meat and fats was 26 kg, while in 1973 it was 52 kg. Figures for milk and dairy products for the same years were 172 and 307 kg; for eggs, 60 and 194 units; for vegetables and melons, 51 and 85 kg; and for fruits and berries, 11 and 40 kg. At the same time, per capita consumption of grain dropped from 172 kg in 1950 to 145 kg in 1973; for potatoes during the same period, the decrease was from 241 to 124 kg.

Physiological norms of consumption for food constitute an important part of the future standard personal budget, known as the rational consumption budget (RCB). In addition to physiological norms of consumption for food, the RCB includes norms for consumption, that is, purchase, of nonfood goods for current use; standards for availability of durable goods to the populace, expressed as number of items per 100 families, and corresponding norms for their purchase; norms of paid services; and standards of housing availability, expressed in number of rooms per family of a given size and composition and number of sq m of communal and residential space per resident. Health care institutions, measured by number of beds per thousand inhabitants, schools for general education and children’s preschool institutions also become part of the RCB. The RCB is a tool of long-range national economic planning, used to substantiate the tasks posed before production and to determine ways to rationalize consumption.

Norms of consumption have also been developed in the capitalist countries. For example, the physiological consumption norms for food developed by the United States in 1942 were adopted as a model by a conference of 44 countries concerning food and agriculture held in 1943. These norms were later modified several times. Standard consumption budgets are also developed in the capitalist countries. As formulated by governmental institutions and by trade union and scientific organizations, such budgets are specifically used to measure the cost of living for various categories of workers. The best known standard budget for working families in the United States is the one developed over an extended period (1920–61) by the Heller committee at the University of California, known as the Heller budget. Similar calculations are made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor.

REFERENCES

Metodologicheskie voprosy izucheniia urovnia zhizni trudiashchikhsia, no. 2. Moscow, 1962.
Sarkisian, G. S., and N. P. Kuznetsova. Potrebnosti i dokhod sem’i. Moscow, 1967.
Buzliakov, N. I. Metody planirovaniia povysheniia urovnia zhizni. Moscow, 1969.
Nauchnye osnovy ekonomicheskogo prognoza. Moscow, 1971.

V. F. MAIER

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