Americans from all economic backgrounds love fast food, according to researchers
05/13/2017 // Frances Bloomfield // Views

The idea of poor people being the most frequent diners of fast food may not be true. Income has nothing to do with fast food consumption. That's what researchers from the Ohio State University and the University of Michigan-Dearborn have asserted in their study.

Researchers Jay Zagorsky and Patricia Smith analyzed the data of 8,000 people who were questioned for the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The surveyees -- most of whom were in their 40s or 50s when they gave their answers -- were asked about their consumption of fast food in 2008, 2010, and 2012; one of the questions asked was how often they'd eaten at “a fast food restaurant such as McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Pizza Hut or Taco Bell” in the last week.

The participants' answers were then compared to their reported income and wealth. Based on their findings, Zagorsky and Smith discovered that participants who belonged to the middle-income group were the most-recurrent eaters of fast food, with 85 percent of them reportedly eating fast food at least once in the past week. Participants from the lower-income group came next, with 80 percent stating that they had eaten fast food once weekly. Participants from the higher-income group scored the lowest at 75 percent. Moreover, the researchers also found that participants whose income had changed for better or worse since 2012 made no adjustments to their eating habits.

“We find little evidence of a gradient in adult fast-food consumption with respect to wealth,” the researchers wrote in their study, which is set to be published in the November edition of Economics and Human Biology. “Contrary to popular belief, fast-food consumption rises as income rises from the lowest to middle quintiles. The variation in adult fast-food consumption across income and wealth groups is, however, small.”


Zagorsky, a research scientist Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research, had gone on to say: “It's not mostly poor people eating fast food in America. Rich people may have more eating options, but that's not stopping them from going to places like McDonald's or KFC.”

In their study, the authors also reported that the participants who relied on fast food for their meals were deprived of one thing: time. Fast food eaters were often those who worked longer hours and had less leisure time. “More work hours predict greater fast-food intake,” they wrote. In another part of the study, the researchers found that a small number of participants dined exclusively on fast food for prolonged periods of time. Specifically, 10 respondents from 2008, five from 2010, and two from 2012, reports

Zagorsky and Smith have acknowledged that their study doesn't give a complete picture, however. The participants were only asked if they ate fast food and how frequently they ate fast food, not what they ate. Additionally, the responses given by the 40-plus to 50-plus-year-old participants may not be true for other age groups.

Still, the study may serve as a good starting point for policies to improve the nutrition of the typical American consumer. “If government wants to get involved in regulating nutrition and food choices, it should be based on facts. This study helps reject the myth that poor people eat more fast food than others and may need special protection,” Zagorsky stated. (Related: Fast food restaurants move towards organic food as Americans become health-conscious)

You can find out more about the state of fast food restaurants, or just junk food in general, by visiting today.

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