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Consumer behavior on the markets of socially important goods and services

Priority areas of development: economics

This project continues and develops research on similar topics implemented since 2011-2012 by the Laboratory for economic research in public sector team (the projects: "Public policy impact on healthy lifestyles", "Social and economic determinants of active aging and public policy response towards the elderly", "Social protection: target groups and priorities", "Social policy development: target groups and priorities"). 

Throughout the year 2018, we kept studying consumer behavior in the markets of alcohol, tobacco, medicine, and sports. In addition, we studied consumer behavior with regard to dietary habits, with focus on the relation between dietary habits, obesity and physical activity. We also addressed the consumption of cultural goods by exploring the factors that affect museum visits. We studied the effectiveness of smoking bans in public places as an example of recently introduced policy measures aimed at changing consumer behavior. Finally, we found evidence in support of the hypothesis, suggesting that subjective poverty is related to consumer behavior in the markets of socially important goods.

The objects of research were: consumers of socially important goods and services; factors affecting consumer choice; costs of socially important goods and services, public policy in the markets of socially important goods and services.

Goal of research: to identify common practices in the behavior of consumers (individuals and households) in the markets of socially important goods and services. Following this goal four main objectives were set and worked out:

  • To identify the changes in households’ and/or individuals’ expenditures on socially important goods and services, study consumption trends and its structure in 2010-2017;
  • To study the relationship between consumer choice in certain markets of socially important goods and services;
  • To estimate the impact of public policy measures on consumption of socially important goods;
  • To develop recommendations for public policy aimed at changing consumer behavior in the markets of socially important goods and services.

Methodology: Literature devoted to theoretical aspects and empirical estimations of factors attributed to consumer behavior in the markets of socially important goods and services was analyzed. Poverty levels were estimated using the Leiden definition. Intertemporal preferences were evaluated using an individual discount rate. Empirical estimates of the main factors of consumer behavior were carried out using descriptive data analysis and econometric modeling.

Empirical base of research: Data for research were taken from: the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS HSE) for 2010-2017 (http://www.hse.ru/science/rlms); Levada Center survey on Individuals’ attitudes towards their health and quality of medical care, conducted in 2017; data from the Main information and computing center of the Ministry of culture of the Russian Federation for 2008-2015; and The Federal State Statistical Service (Rosstat).

Results of research: We found that overweight is widespread in Russia, and especially among women. The study shows that there exist a negative relationship between the BMI of Russians and the degree of their physical activity. Regular diet is positively associated with the probability of having a normal weight. However, the study calls into questions the healthiness of home nutrition: among consumers who eat at home, the proportion of those suffering from overweight is higher compared to those who eat outside. Apparently, the causes of high BMI are attributed to the diet, rather than to the place where the food is cooked. The results of the regression analysis show that the frequency of consumption of main types of unhealthy products decreases with age. Unlike citizens of developed countries, where families with higher incomes eat more healthy food, Russians demonstrate the opposite tendency: increase of per capita income increases the likelihood of eating junk food. Unlike studies based on data form developed countries, showing that education is an important predictor for healthy food consumption, our study shows that education is not a significant factor. We find that working Russians are more likely to consume unhealthy food than non-working ones, and in large settlements the likelihood of frequent consumption of unhealthy food is higher than in rural areas.

Contrary to our hypothesis, the presence of subsidized and/or hot meals at work does not have any impact on the probability of healthy food consumption. Apparently, when developing measures for promoting healthy nutrition for the working population, more attention should be paid to the quality and cost of subsidized meals rather than to the fact of having subsidized/hot meals as such.

Our research conducted on a subsample of young people revealed the impact of various socio-demographic factors on the level of physical activity for young males and females. For both males and females, having a job and/or family is a barrier for physical activity as well as regular smoking. For males, high per capita income and the availability of sports infrastructure at their place of residence were positively associated with probability of doing sports, while for females high education was a significant factor, contributing to participation in sports.

Our study on tobacco users’ compliance with bans on smoking in public places showed that being young, active smoker and abusing alcohol is strongly associated with violations. In addition, high–income smokers are more prone to violate the law. Apparently, the amount of fines for smoking in public places is not a barrier for high-income tobacco users. Our study found that more than a quarter of all smokers ignore the smoking bans. It can arise from the lack of proper control in certain public places and the weakness of the enforcement mechanisms.

When studying subjective poverty we turned to estimating the relation between alcohol consumption, tobacco use, participation in sports and self-assessed well-being. We failed to find the relation between subjective poverty and tobacco use. However, the empirical analysis showed that subjective feeling of poverty had a significant impact on consumers’ behavior in the market of alcoholic beverages. Despite the fact that the income itself was insignificant in predicting alcohol consumption, the subjective feeling of poverty was associated with an increase in the probability of consuming vodka by women and beer by men. The study also found a negative relation between the subjective feeling of poverty and the decision to participate in physical activities and sports.

Our study of consumer behavior on the pharmaceutical market made possible to justify the catastrophic expenditures line for Russian households. It showed that in 2007 - 2017 the number of households that faced catastrophic expenditures for medicine has been constantly increasing. Families with catastrophic expenditures for medicine often included members with chronic diseases and disabilities, and/or pensioners, as well as were formed by single women.

When studying consumption of cultural goods on the federal museums data we found that the attendance of museums was determined by demand-side factors (regional level of education and number of tourists) and supply-side factors (spending on museum and number of exhibitions). Since the prices of tickets and the level of regional per capita income were not significant, the prices of tickets to federal museums can be viewed as affordable for majority of Russian citizens. Increase in visits to museums can be achieved by increasing the spending on new exhibitions and activities carried out by museums, by encouraging domestic tourism and investing in education.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

The research findings can be applied in the development of public policy towards socially important goods and services. First, the results (gender differences in the proportion of overweight and obese people, different food habits of men and women, different factors affecting the physical activity of young males and females) provide arguments in favor of separate analysis of consumer behaviors on subsamples of males and females, and developing special measures of public policy with respect to gender differences. Second, high level of noncompliance with anti-tobacco legislation requires additional measures, starting from regular monitoring of places where violations occur most often, and the effect of policy measures on groups of smokers who are most prone to violations. Third, the growing level of catastrophic expenditures on medicines among socially vulnerable groups of population indicates the inefficiency of the medical provision in Russia and the need to improve policy in this area. Finally, the results of the study show that the subjective perceptions of Russians about their well-being should be taken into consideration when developing measures to support healthy lifestyle.


Александрова Ю. Д., Колосницына М. Г. Проблема избыточного веса населения России: статистический анализ // Вопросы статистики. 2018. Т. 25. № 10. C. 61-77. 
Хоркина Н. А., Лопатина М. В., Костина Ю. В. Физическая активность российской молодежи и возможности государственной политики // Вопросы государственного и муниципального управления. 2018. № 2. C. 177-200. 
Liudmila Z. Analysis of non-compliance with smoke-free legislation in Russia // International Journal of Public Health. 2019. Vol. 64. No. 3. P. 413-422. doi
Kolosnitsyna M., Khorkina N., Lopatina M. Factors Affecting Youth Physical Activities: Evidence from Russia // Мониторинг общественного мнения: Экономические и социальные перемены. 2020. No. 5. P. 578-601. doi
Kolosnitsyna M., Khorkina N., Lopatina M. The Factors Of Physical Activities In Russian Youth: Evidence From Micro-Data / ГУ ВШЭ. Series WP BRP Series "Public and Social Policy". 2018. No. WP BRP 21/PSP/2018.