Father and son cooking together

Research

The Family That Dines Together…

New research adds a dash of spice to our understanding of how people handle their personal financial matters: families who dine together grow wealthy together.

Three professors at the University of Georgia have discovered that families who commit to gather regularly around the dinner table – or, presumably, dine out or cook together – are better prepared financially and will accumulate more wealth faster.

As with any statistical analysis, their research can’t prove cause and effect.  Is it that dining together causes wealth to go up, or is that families who know how to handle their finances also tend to be the type of people who enjoy meals together?

But Swarn Chatterjee and his colleagues’ research is anything but prosaic: dining together is a proxy for a concept known as self-regulation.  They link self-regulation and dining together with good financial outcomes.

“The connection that we made was that for parents to be able to spend mealtimes with their families, just by a regular schedule, requires some commitment to their children, concern for the child’s wellbeing,” Chatterjee said.  “To be able to do that requires a high self-regulation.”

By self-regulation he means “a process of setting standards for oneself, monitoring one’s actions and making focused interaction” to stay on track with one’s personal  goals – whether dieting, saving money, or making sure that eating together is a priority.

To assess financial success, he tracked families in a survey from 1994 through 2004.  Those who dined together at least four times a week increased their wealth 71 percent, from $39,000 in 1994 to $66,500 in 2004.  For those who did not , wealth also increased but started out lower and rose less – by 62 percent, from $23,161 to $37,500.  Wealth was measured as net worth: home equity plus financial assets minus credit cards and other loans.  Results of the regression analyses linking the two were also statistically significant.

Families who eat together “may be more adept at implementing and monitoring financial management,” according to their paper, which Chatterjee said is scheduled for publication this year in the Applied Economics Research Bulletin.

Regular meals were also associated with higher rates of homeownership and income, and greater diversification of their investments, their research found.

The good news/bad news for people who want to put their financial affairs in order is that self-regulation has a lot in common with exercise or dieting or doing homework.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.

One Response to The Family That Dines Together…

  1. John says:

    Interesting research. So if I dine with my family, it will bring me more wealth?