Changes in the practice of eating: A comparative analysis of time-use

Alan Warde*, Shu Li Cheng, Wendy Olsen, Dale Southerton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

145 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines changes in aspects of the eating habits of the populations of five countries between the early 1970s and the end of the 1990s. Time-use diary data provide the main evidence, which is subjected to techniques of statistical description and regression analysis. The study of France, UK, USA, Norway and the Netherlands shows considerable national variation in patterns of food preparation, eating at home and eating out. Each of these components of the practice of eating is examined for indications of whether there are any tendencies towards dedifferentiation within countries or convergence across countries. There are some common patterns across countries, notably a decline in the amount of time devoted to food preparation. Time spent on eating at home reduces in all countries except France. In the USA, time devoted to domestic food preparation and consumption is minimal. Internal differentiation shows continuities - of gender divisions and age-related behaviour - but also new emergent tendencies - with the presence of children and levels of cultural capital becoming significant predictors of behaviour. It is maintained that the analysis of time-use provides a useful framework for comparing practices in different countries and that the variation revealed might best be understood in terms of different modes of institutionalization of consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-385
Number of pages23
JournalActa Sociologica
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007


  • Comparative sociology
  • Distinction
  • Eating
  • Food habits
  • Globalization
  • Practice
  • Social differentiation
  • Time-use surveys

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Changes in the practice of eating: A comparative analysis of time-use'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this