GOOD

The Drive-Through Middle Class: The Surprising Link Between Income and Fast-Food Eating

Middle-class families are more likely to eat fast food frequently than the poorest Americans.


It's trendy to blame fast food for the alarming obesity rate among poor Americans. But a new study shows that the largest population of eaters venturing out to Burger Kings, Chick-fil-As, and Taco Bells are those on the lower rungs of the middle class.

According to researchers from the University of California at Davis, the sweet spot for fast-food franchises are upwardly mobile consumers moving from the lowest income bracket to middle one. In a study of about 5,000 adults, DaeHwan Kim and J. Paul Leigh found that the relationship between fast-food eating and income looks less like a negative linear relationship—where the lower one's income, the more fast food they eat—and more like an "inverted U." Patronage of fast-food restaurants increases as families move out of the low-income bracket, peaks in the lower regions of the middle-income population, then declines after families begin to earn more than $60,000 annually.


The study relied on data from the mid-1990s, the most recent information available on the subject—but the researchers expect that the general patterns still hold today. “The relationship between poverty, obesity, and fast-food restaurant use is more complicated than people realize," Leigh says. "Fast-food restaurants aren’t the only factor contributing to low-income obesity.” That's partly because the poorest Americans have too little cash to catch the eye of the McDonald's marketing department. “McDonald’s and Burger King don’t cater to low-income families simply because they are not going to make that much money," Leigh said. "They’re targeting middle-income families. The results of the study make complete sense from a business standpoint."

The middle-class families who frequent the drive-through the most may have some money, but they tend to operate under a perpetual time crunch—less free time, more children, and little disposable income result in more quick trips to the Golden Arches. And they're paying for the meals out of their own pockets—Leigh attributes the lack of low-income patrons at fast-food restaurants partially to the fact that food stamps are not accepted at most fast-food locations.

But just because a family or individual is using food stamps at a grocery store doesn’t mean they truly have access to higher-quality foods. “There is plenty of food in grocery stores that’s full of fat and very cheap,” Leigh says. “If you’re interested in poverty and obesity then there are other ways to go about addressing it as opposed to saying that the fast-food restaurants are the only bad guys here.”

Photo via (cc) Flickr user busyPrinting

Articles
Screenshot via Sweden.se/Twitter (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics