Household Food Waste: Multivariate Regression and Principal Components Analyses of Awareness and Attitudes among U.S. Consumers

PLoS One. 2016 Jul 21;11(7):e0159250. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159250. eCollection 2016.


We estimate models of consumer food waste awareness and attitudes using responses from a national survey of U.S. residents. Our models are interpreted through the lens of several theories that describe how pro-social behaviors relate to awareness, attitudes and opinions. Our analysis of patterns among respondents' food waste attitudes yields a model with three principal components: one that represents perceived practical benefits households may lose if food waste were reduced, one that represents the guilt associated with food waste, and one that represents whether households feel they could be doing more to reduce food waste. We find our respondents express significant agreement that some perceived practical benefits are ascribed to throwing away uneaten food, e.g., nearly 70% of respondents agree that throwing away food after the package date has passed reduces the odds of foodborne illness, while nearly 60% agree that some food waste is necessary to ensure meals taste fresh. We identify that these attitudinal responses significantly load onto a single principal component that may represent a key attitudinal construct useful for policy guidance. Further, multivariate regression analysis reveals a significant positive association between the strength of this component and household income, suggesting that higher income households most strongly agree with statements that link throwing away uneaten food to perceived private benefits.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • Awareness*
  • Demography
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Principal Component Analysis*
  • Regression Analysis
  • United States
  • Waste Products*
  • Young Adult


  • Waste Products

Grants and funding

Funding for the survey is from the McCormick Program in Agricultural Marketing and Policy, Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, Ohio State University. Partial support for Roe’s salary is recognized from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Ohio State University. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or the preparation of the manuscript.