Eat together, get rich together

The virtues of eating together as a family are often extolled: it’s good for the children, it’s good for your health. And now… can it make you richer?

Well, maybe. It’s something that researchers at the University of Georgia have been looking at, in their paper “Individual wealth accumulation: why does dining as a family matter?”.

The idea is that to accumulate wealth you usually need make plans and stick to them. You need to have self-control, or as the paper terms it, self-regulation. Invest wisely. Don’t impulse buy. All the things we know we ought to be doing, but generally aren’t all that good at.

Eating together as a family is another manifestation of good self-control. It requires a commitment to, in some cases, prioritise family above other concerns, rather than say, giving in to the short-term pleasure of collapsing in silence in front of the TV.

The study suggests that those who demonstrate “high self-regulation capacity”, i.e. regularly enjoy dinner with the family, do indeed accumulate wealth at a faster rate.

Sort of plausible. Except that as with so many problems analysed in economics, working out the direction of cause and effect is tricky. For example: it may well be the case that families who experience financial difficulties are less able to have family meals together, perhaps because they have to take on jobs that entail working less family friendly hours.

Still, when there’s so much else going for family meals, does it really matter whether it makes you richer too?

The full paper is here.

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