The poor rely on fast food the least

by on September 19, 2015 at 11:28 am in Data Source, Economics, Food and Drink | Permalink

New data, released by the Centers for Disease Control, show that America’s love for fast food is surprisingly income blind. Well-off kids, poor kids, and all those in between tend to get about the same percentage of their calories from fast food, according to a survey of more than 5,000 people. More precisely, though, it’s the poorest kids that tend to get the smallest share of their daily energy intake from Big Macs, Whoppers, Chicken McNuggets, and french fries.

That is from Robert Ferdman.  By the way:

More than a third of all children and adolescents living in the country still eat some form of fast food on any given day, a number which hasn’t budged in decades, according to the CDC.

And many children are getting alarmingly high proportions of their diet from chicken nuggets and french fries. About a quarter of all kids in the United States get 25 percent of their calories from fast food. And 12 percent of kids get more than 40 percent of their calories from fast food.

1 Dude Man September 19, 2015 at 11:38 am

If you’re making $8.50 an hour, you probably aren’t buying too many $4 cheeseburgers.

2 datroof jackson September 19, 2015 at 11:50 am

You wouldn’t think he’d have an iPhone, either.

3 Jan September 19, 2015 at 11:51 am

Poor people are stupid.

4 John September 19, 2015 at 11:57 am

And fat.

5 Pete September 19, 2015 at 12:27 pm

lol you all are funny. Can I upvote these comments?

6 Bob from Ohio September 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm

McDonalds has a $1 cheeseburger and a $1.19-1.29 [or so] double cheeseburger.

Wendy’s has a .99 cheeseburger and a $1.19-1.29 [or so] “deluxe” cheeseburger.

Rally’s for a $1 as well.

7 Dan Weber September 21, 2015 at 4:45 pm

About a decade ago, Consumer Reports did blind taste tests and nutrition tests and the McDonald’s one-dollar chicken sandwich scored very well on both. I wonder if that would still hold.

8 Jan September 19, 2015 at 11:50 am

That is a very surprising finding that doesn’t align with what I see day-day. Just the type of public health research we need more of.

Two questions: I wonder if this is much different for adults. And it’s not obvious to me from the NHANES webpage how the CDC defines fast food. A lot of people I know eat relatively “healthy” stuff, like salads to go, that are probably technically considered fast food but have really only become popular the last five years.

9 Thomas Sewell September 19, 2015 at 12:03 pm

You can’t buy McDonald’s (or other “prepared foods”) with food stamps in most states, so the result makes sense for the very poor.

That doesn’t mean what they _are_ buying is actually healthier than fast food. Frozen microwave burritos can taste relatively good and are cheap, but they aren’t exactly the healthiest thing out there for you.

10 Thor September 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

So, Jan, you work in the industry? Or are you just hanging around MacDonalds?

11 Jan September 19, 2015 at 9:33 pm

What’s MacDonalds? You must not be American. Your opinion/questions are void.

12 Greg September 20, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Well played.

13 honkie please September 19, 2015 at 11:55 am

Maybe Whole Foods is off limits unless you’re doing well or have EBT. It’s the suckers in the working class who get to eat McMeat.

14 John September 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

While the slight tilt is different than expected, the difference between classes seems less a story. Rather than a “dangerous myth” that poor kids eat fast food, we have a harsh reality that many do.

See also percentage overweight over time.

15 Norman Pfyster September 19, 2015 at 11:57 am

Because poorer kids can’t afford to buy as much as better off kids when spending money out of their own pocket? (Shocking, I know.) When I was in high school, there was a diner next to school that was quite popular with students…at least those who could afford to drop $4 for a burger and fries for lunch. Not all of us could.

16 Thomas Sewell September 19, 2015 at 11:59 am

I don’t find “get X percentage of their calories from fast food” a very good measurement. Fast food tends to be extremely calorific. Someone could eat chicken, veggies and salads for 95% of their meals and fast food for 5% and still get most of their calories from fast food. The more interesting measure to me is the # of meals reference, although I’d prefer a percentage of meals measurement, as 1 our of 3 meals per day is substantially different than 1 out of 2 meals per day.

17 Math September 19, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Your math sucks

18 Granite26 October 6, 2015 at 7:24 am

I agree… 95% is probably an exaggeration, but it doesn’t take much to throw it off… I’m also curious how school fits into this? Are school lunches fast food? What about that biscuit on the way to school…

19 charlie September 19, 2015 at 12:03 pm

11 vs 13.

And is the NHAMES survey designed to properly sort out income levels?

20 Devin Lavelle September 19, 2015 at 12:13 pm

X% of Y, when low income children are more likely to be obese = ___

21 drtomcor September 19, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Both McD and BK have “dollar” menus. Hold the fries, remove the bread from a double cheeseburger. Things could be much worse than eating that, a bag of chips costs more, not to mention wasted calories and money for sodas.

22 drtomcor September 19, 2015 at 7:03 pm

McD has just come out with the triple cheeseburger! $2.19. For your child, or for your own belly, that is worth a truck load of leafy greens, HaHaHa!

23 derek September 19, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Obviously women should go home, into the kitchen, learn to cook, and wean their kids off fast food.

24 observer September 19, 2015 at 4:08 pm

That’s a wonderful solution for single moms. I presume you endorse full income support at that point, correct?

25 M September 19, 2015 at 1:09 pm

It surprises me as well.

I thought the US market was different, in that the poor could afford a high proportion of really cheap prepared fast food, as a substantial amount of their meals.

It sounds like it’s not so much like that and the price and convenience advantage is still not enough, so they’re stuck eating biscuits (cookies), crisps (chips), sweets (candy) and fizzy drinks (soda), like in the UK.

Which would of course be worse for your health and chances of being overweight than eating “fast food” which is at least proper meals with meat and a little vegetables. Same way Asian style “hawker stalls” are probably worse on average for the waistline and health than proper meals, but better than typical Western style “fast food”. Convenience packed foods that can be eaten and drunk off the shelf are very unsatiating, unhealthy foods compared to McDs or fried chicken, but the convenience and palatability makes them market winners.

26 dearieme September 19, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Fish’n’chips is an excellent part of a diet, more so if eaten with peas. I suspect that black pudding, pickled onions and chips is too. They wouldn’t be a good diet, but as part of a diet they’re fine. “Fast food” and “junk food” are social categories rather than scientific categories. Or so I’d think.

27 Hazel Meade September 19, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Why the hell can’t people just cook for themselves?
Rice and beans, people. Hispanics do it. Mexican food may not be the healthiest, but it’s cheap and it’s real food with actual protein and a few vegetables.

28 Dave Barnes September 19, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Shouldn’t it be written “chicken” nuggets and not chicken nuggets?

29 Bob from Ohio September 19, 2015 at 3:33 pm

No. Its made of actual chicken. Check your privilege please

[Its the breading and frying that makes it less healthy.]

30 California liberal September 19, 2015 at 6:02 pm

If you aren’t worth $15 per hour you shouldn’t work. If you can’t afford free-range, organic, local, fair-wage, family-farmed food, you shouldn’t eat. If you can’t be born into a loving, two parent, professional family with a hybrid car, you shouldn’t be born. I love poor people.

31 anon September 19, 2015 at 2:28 pm

“More precisely, though, it’s the poorest kids that tend to get the smallest share of their daily energy intake from Big Macs, Whoppers, Chicken McNuggets, and french fries.”

Which still could mean that they consume more calories of fast food than other children, if they also consume more calories in general than the other children.

32 libertarians race issue September 19, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Tyler – ever wonder why you’ll never achieve krugmanesque levels of careerdom?

read these comments. you know what you’re doing.

After reading this blog — average ain’t over

33 honkie please September 19, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Indeed, who wouldn’t aspire to lead the resplendent existence of Paul Krugman?

34 California liberal September 19, 2015 at 6:03 pm

The socially wealthy will never let you have success unless you yield to progressive sensibilities. Social inequality is very valuable for society to have.

35 whatsthat September 19, 2015 at 6:02 pm

These are differences in calories from fast food restaurants, but what about stuff bought from supermarkets? There’s a lot of cheap easy to make stuff that’s bad for you. Would be better if they sorted that out.

And rather than say the rich are eating worse, given the small differences in %’s, they are all eating about the same.

When it comes to dynamic comparisons, how did they adjust for differences in menus? My impression is the fast food industry has faced a severe backlash over the last decade and there has been some minimal adjustment toward healthier stuff.

36 Ryukin September 19, 2015 at 6:06 pm

It’s always been easy to eat healthy at a fast food restaurant. Hold the fries, hold the soda, eat a burger with or without a bun. Newer, healthier offerings at fast food restaurants considerably more expensive then a regular burger. Healthy offerings at fast food restaurants have different buyer demographics. The type of people who are interested in eating healthier foods have more money then the type of people who aren’t. Draw your own conclusions.

37 Hazel Meade September 19, 2015 at 7:48 pm

If you look at the charts, the difference is not really that great. It’s like a 1-2 percentage point difference. And they don’t even show any error bars, so it’s hard to say the difference between 11% (or poor kids) and 13% (of middle class kids) is statistically significant.

I guess it is relevant that pretty much all kids eat fast food regardless of income level. It is not skewed downward.
I suspect the REAL reason is that kids have much less opportunity to cook for themselves, especially since they are out with friends a lot of the time attempting to avoid adult supervision, and don’t have the time or money for sit-down restaurants. Kids basically have an allowance, so their parents income doesn’t really mean much. They don’t have free use of the credit card to go eat sushi.

Second question: What about adults? Do poor adults spend more money on fast food? And what percentage of fast food restaurants revenue comes from kids vs. adults?

38 Floccina September 20, 2015 at 10:55 am

Democrats seem to believe these counter intuitive things pretty strongly without checking the data. Like food deserts make poor people fat. Like poor people are somehow forced to buy fattening fast food.

39 Nathan W September 21, 2015 at 8:20 am

When I was younger, I was shocked to find out that many people consider fast food to be “cheap”. My food budget for the first couple years of uni (mid-2000s) was in the $30-50 a month range. Indian/Mexican dishes are cheap as chips and healthy too.

40 siGcfkFRGDUVqTg October 11, 2015 at 10:03 pm

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