01 May 2020

Households do not like to admit to stockpiling

Panel analysis shows that survey results and actual buying behavior diverge strongly / Further result: East and West are developing different attitudes towards the Corona crisis

A recent analysis of the SAFE Household Crisis Barometer in conjunction with data on purchasing behavior shows that households that are stockpiling ("hoarding") do not admit to do so in surveys. For the analysis, researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE and the Chair of Finance and Economics at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with cooperation partners from Nielsen-Frankfurt, have compared the results of a survey among nearly 8,900 households of the Nielsen Consumer Panel between 20 and 30 March 2020 with the actual purchasing behavior of the same panel in March. The result: Only 30% of households stated that they had stocked up at all. However, spending on ready meals, pasta and paper hygiene products increased strongly from February to March, not only for this small group but also across the entire population (table 1). In the case of pasta, households that reported not having stocked increased their expenditure even more (by 53%) than households that admitted to stockpile (43%).

 Households that reported having stockedHouseholds that reported not having stocked
Paper hygiene63%48%
Toilet paper71%59%
Ready meals65%46%

Table 1: Shopping basket evaluation - increase in expenditure in March compared to February for various product categories

Survey findings and purchasing behavior differ particularly when it comes to toilet paper: While only 12% of households stated that they had purchased toilet paper for stocking up, spending rose by well over 50% between February and March - and this also applies to all those households who stated that they generally did not stock up.

According to Roman Inderst, Professor of Finance and Economics at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, it might be possible that households that bought significantly more in March than in February did not perceive this as special stockpiling. "However, the considerable discrepancy between the changes observed in the shopping basket and the answer to the question of whether a household has stockpiled suggests that many households do not like to see themselves in the stockpiling role," says Inderst. This phenomenon does not only apply to Germany: "We also see in other European countries, such as Switzerland and France, that the number of households claiming to stockpile is significantly lower than the proportion of those who have actually increased their expenditure on food and drugstore items," says Alexander Proske from Nielsen.

Households in the eastern part of Germany find press coverage increasingly exaggerated

The results of the latest survey of the Household Crisis Barometer conducted by SAFE, Goethe University and Nielsen-Frankfurt from 17 to 24 April show that East and West Germans are diverging in their attitudes towards the Corona crisis. While the number of households which find the press reports on the crisis completely exaggerated was unanimously at about a quarter in Saxony and Thuringia on the one hand and Baden-Württemberg on the other at the end of March, this proportion has now risen to 40% in the two East German states, while it has hardly changed in Baden-Württemberg.

There are similar differences in the willingness to avoid public space in East and West. Although this is declining throughout Germany, it is declining much more strongly in the eastern states. In Saxony and Thuringia, for example, only 55% of households currently state that they avoid the public - compared to 74% at the end of March. In Baden-Württemberg, on the other hand, the figure is now 68%, compared to 80% at the end of March.

These differences cannot be explained solely by differences in the number of corona cases. Although Saxony or Thuringia have only about one third as many officially registered corona cases per 100,000 inhabitants as Baden-Württemberg, the differences between eastern and western states with more comparable case numbers are also very striking.

About the cooperation

The Household Crisis Barometer is based on a cooperation between the Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE, Nielsen-Frankfurt and the Chair of Finance and Economics at the Goethe University Frankfurt. Currently, the households of the Nielsen Consumer Panel are asked questions every two weeks. The high number of households continuously surveyed, the large number of answers (always more than 7,000 households) and the possibility of making the answers representative by means of statistical methods result in a reliable and timely picture of the economic situation, (consumer) behavior and expectations of the entire population. The Nielsen Consumer Panel also allows survey results to be linked to actual purchasing behavior for further analysis or comparison. In this way, it is possible to analyze how the income shocks surveyed are also reflected in the shopping basket of individual households.

All survey results and shopping basket evaluations (only German)

Contact:Prof. Dr. Andreas Hackethal