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SPECIAL SOCIAL SURVEYS IN GREAT BRITAIN APRIL I 5, I 943 At this conference, Dr. Mark Abrams, who has been connected with the surveys of family consumption and expenditure conducted for the British Ministry of Food, described the development of methods, present procedures, type of results, and their relationship to the government's subsequent food policies and courses of action. Dr. Abrams first presented some background information essential to the understanding of such survey work in Britain. In the various social surveys carried out during the past few decades it had been found that most members of the working class fell to the poverty level, as defined, for example, by Professor Bowley, at some time or another in their lives. The pattern was regular. A large proportion of working class children were born into poverty; they and their families remained there until the children were old enough (at ~3 or ~4 years of age) to go out to work. This often brought the ado- lescents and their parents above the poverty line, and-prosperity lasted until the young people married in their early twenties and left home. Their de- parture once more reduced their parents to poverty, and the prosperity of tl~e newly founded family lasted only until they in turn became parents. This rhythmic pattern means that any policy for dealing with poverty and malnutrition in Britain has to be directed toward specific groups at specific stages in their family life Secondly, British economy is a very highly urbanized one and before the war was extremely dependent upon overseas trade for food and textile raw materials. This made it necessary very early in the war to cut down the standard of living in tethers of certain foods and clothing by as much as solo. Some of the more spectacular cuts were in eggs, citrus fruits, meat, and milk. The problem was how to maintain the necessary minimum of health to pro- duce for a war economy that was obviously going to last a long time. Thirdly, the war has caused extreme dislocation of British family life, as shown by the very high rate of drafting men, the industrial mobilization of women, the evacuation of children to safe areas, and the decentralization of key factories. The latter meant transplanting large numbers of workers and their families, and often the economies of many areas were not geared to bear the increased population. The ordinary routines of family life were severely disrupted. To help meet some of the resulting problems, a joint survey committee of the Ministries of Health and of Food began work in the last quarter of ~939. It had no survey machinery of its own, but worked through an out- side research agency which developed the necessary research techniques for obtaining the appropriate information. To
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Special Social Surreys in Great Britain ~7 The annual sample of ~o,ooo working class families comprising the sample studied by this committee is picked on a random basis from the electoral registers of Great Britain. In this way a complete cross-section of the population is obtained and the classification into groups and types is done subsequently. If a family has moved since the registers were compiled, the family that has taken its place in the residence is studied. Since practically no housing construction has taken place since the outbreak of the war, there are no new addresses. There are very few refusals to cooperate (3-87o) and in general about 7070 of the families are willing to be studied three times at three-month intervals. No compensation for cooperation is given, but after each quarterly survey is completed, a letter is sent by the Ministry of Food, thanking the informant and explaining how her cooperation has helped in the planning of the war effort. Each investigator studies six families a weel;. At the beginning and end of this period she weighs all the food stocks in the house, and during the period helps the housewife keep a record of the price, quantity, and weight of all food which comes into the house, whether purchases or gifts. All meals eaten outside the house are recorded, as well as any meals given visitors in the house. The composition of each meal and the members of the family present are also recorded primarily as a check on the housewife's account of her purchases. At the end of the week, the investigator has complete information as to the family expenditure on food and its intake of food. It is then possible to classify the family in terms of its nutritional standing. Given the nature of Britain's pre-war imports, some of the main deficiencies to be expected were in vitamins A and C, calcium, and first-class protein. The results, generally available one month after each survey, are used by the Ministry in planning imports and priorities on imports of certain foods. And similarly, the tabulations are such as to help in adjusting ration- ing, food prices, food taxes, and money and food subsidies to obtain the best state of health among the people. For example, deficiencies found in specific groups, as in families with many dependents, can be remedied by supple- mental factory arid school feeding and the subsidized pricing of children's foods; for certain groups. Differential rationing of cheese and other protein foods was indicated to make up for their unsuspected deficiencies. The surveys also show which groups are not using the specially developed sources of vitamins, such as rose-hip syrup, in which their diets are deficient, and then appropriate film, radio, press, school, and factory campaigns are developed. The meeting closed with a discussion of the difference in the use of re- search material in Britain and in the United States. Some suggested that the smaller size of the British ministries makes it easier for research documents to reach everyone concerned with policy. It was said that in Britain the basic assumption apparently is that environment, i.e., prices, supplies, etc., is to be manipulated through whatever necessary means so that people get enough food, while in the United States the assumption apparently is that people must make the adjustment. . ,
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