a1 Professor of International Business History, Henley Business School at the University of Reading, P.O. Box 218, Whiteknights, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AA, United Kingdom. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
a2 Reader International Business and Strategy, Henley Business School at the University of Reading, P.O. Box 218, Whiteknights, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AA, United Kingdom. E-mail: email@example.com.
We examine the strategies interwar working-class British households used to “smooth” consumption over time and guard against negative contingencies such as illness, unemployment, and death. Newly discovered returns from the U.K. Ministry of Labour's 1937/38 Household Expenditure Survey are used to fully categorize expenditure smoothing via nineteen credit/savings vehicles. We find that households made extensive use of expenditure-smoothing devices. Families' reliance on expenditure-smoothing is shown to be inversely related to household income, while households also used these mechanisms more intensively during expenditure crisis phases of the family life cycle, especially the years immediately after new household formation.
We thank Nat Ishino, Fatima Cardias Williams, and Natalie Anderson for excellent research assistance. We are also indebted to Andrew Newell, Cormac O'Grada, Dil Porter, and Nicole Robertson for their comments on various drafts of this article. Thanks are also due to the Nuffield Foundation for financial support for this project (Project Number: H502620) and to the LMU Women's Library Archives; Manchester Museum of Science and Industry; Marks & Spencer plc Archives; Mass Observation Archive; National Archives, Kew; Nottingham Local Studies Library; Royal Pharmaceutical Society Archives; University of Bangor Library Archives; and University of East Anglia Archives for generous assistance. Any errors are our own.