Food expenditure of the Nigerian household

  • Patrick Oladimeji
  • Jeremiah Iyamabo
Patrick Oladimeji, Jeremiah Iyamabo

The type of foods consumed and the quality all have effects on health and well being. This article explores the cost of living across different states in Nigeria, with a focus on how much people can expect to spend on food.

This is part of a series to generate more visual representations of data captured by the National Bureau of Statistics during the General Household Survey, Panel 2018-2019, Wave 4. This article specifically looks at the post-harvest questionnaire with a focus on typical expenditure on food over a period of 7 days.

The data used for the visualisations can be found here. More specifically, the charts in this article were generated from the following datasets:

  • sect1_harvestw4 - the number of individuals in each household at the time of the survey was derived from this data file.
  • sect10b_harvestw4 - the reported food purchases by each household (see here) was summed to get a total amount spent on food per household. In order to get a normalised view, the total amount was divided by the size of the household. The charts below report the amount spent per person over a period of 7 days.

A primary goal of this article is to provide insights to the reader about how much they spend on food and how they compare with the sample population that took part in the survey. More generally, given a target demographic, the reader should be able to derive estimates of their food expenditure.

Typical food expenditure over a period of 7 days

The distributions below show the amount spent per head over a period of 7 days for rural and urban areas at the national level. Not surprisingly, we see typically higher spends in urban areas for the different quantile ranges highlighted (in red vertical lines). For instance to get into the top 1% of spenders in the rural regions, you should spend about ₦9,000 per head over a course of 7 days. For the urban region you would need to be spending around ₦11,000 over the same period. The mean spend per head over a 7 day period for rural and urban areas are ₦1473 and ₦2292 respectively.

Histograms showing the mean amount spent per person over a 7 day period for rural and urban areas. The quantile markers show people typically spend more on food in urban than in rural areas.

Mean food expenditure by state

Visualising the food expenditure by state shows that the southern part of the country spends more on food per person. Enugu, Bayelsa and Abuja had the highest mean food expenditure. This could be for a few reasons. It could be that food is more expensive in these regions. It could also be that people are buying more food or that people are buying food of a certain type which happens to be more expensive. In the following sections we explore other factors that might affect the amount spent on food.

What affects amount spent per head?

A scatter plot of the amount spent per head by the number of people in the household shows there might be a negative relationship between these two variables. The more people are in a household, the less that household appears to spend per head. The charts below show data for all rural and urban areas across the country. Here, we see the mean spend per head for each household size. The size of the discs in the chart represents the number of households that contributed to the mean score.

Both of these charts show that the more people there are in a household,  the less that household spends on an individual member. This is not surprising. Most households have just two adults earning a living to support the livelihoods of the other members. An increase in household size given the same disposable income implies there is less money to allocate to each member. It is also possible that larger households are more common in geographical areas where people tend to have less disposable income. The level of poverty in an area might also drive various factors that encourage larger households.

Although the data shows we have significantly lower number of households who have more than ten members (see the sizes of the discs for reference), it is reasonable to expect that given enough data, this relationship stabilises on an amount that designates the baseline cost of food per person, in a given region. Hypothetically then, a bare minimum amount you can expect to spend on food over a period of 7 days might be 500 and 1200 for rural and urban areas nationally. That equates to a daily amount of 71 and 171 for rural and urban areas.

If you would like to explore the data in a bit more detail, have a look at the observablehq notebook where the visualisations that appear on this page were generated.


These visualisations are driven by data collected by the Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics. General Household Survey, Panel (GHS-Panel) 2018-2019. Dataset downloaded from on June 9 2020.

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