Jayachandran Variyam

Jay Variyam

Division Director


Jayachandran (Jay) Variyam is the director of ERS’s Food Economics Division and a member of the Federal Government’s Senior Executive Service (SES). He leads ERS’s food policy research focused on food and nutrition assistance programs, food security, food markets, food safety, and consumer food choices. A major emphasis is the development and analysis of consumer and food market data, including food prices, household food purchases, nutritional quality, food security, consumer dietary behaviors, time use, and food assistance administrative data. Jay oversees the release of USDA’s economic reports on U.S. domestic food security, food environment and access to healthy food, food expenditures, the food dollar series, farm to consumer price spreads, economic costs of foodborne illness, and monthly forecasts of U.S. food prices. Jay is a member of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) and the Interagency Council on Human Nutrition Research (ICHNR).


Before becoming the division director, Jay served as chief of the Food Economics Division's Diet, Safety, and Health Economics Branch. His research interests include understanding the determinants of food choices, diet quality, and diet-related health outcomes, with special focus on the roles of information, nutrition knowledge, and educational attainment. Aside from Jay's work on food, nutrition, and health economics, he has published research on small business economics and on econometric models involving latent variables. He has taught econometric courses at the USDA Graduate School. Jay has also worked as an agricultural officer in the state department of agriculture in Kerala, India.


Jay earned a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Georgia. He completed his master’s degree in agricultural economics and his bachelor’s degree in agriculture at the Kerala Agricultural University, Kerala, India.

Selected Publications

Xu, X., Variyam, J. N., Zhao, Z., & Chaloupka, F. J. (2014). Relative food prices and obesity in U.S. metropolitan areas: 1976-2001. PLoS ONE, 9(12), e114707.

Variyam, J. N. (2008). Do nutrition labels improve dietary outcomes? Health Economics, 17(June), 695–708.

Variyam, J. N. (2005, February). The price is right: Economics and the rise in obesity. Amber Waves, 3(1), U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Variyam, J. N. (2003). Double impact: Educational attainment and the macronutrient intake of U.S. adults. In W. S. Chern & K. Rickertsen (Eds.), Health, Nutrition, and Food Demand (pp. 53–72). CABI Publishing.

Variyam, J. N. (2002, December). Patterns of caloric intakes and body mass index among U.S. adults. FoodReview, 25(3), 16–20, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.