American children consume fast food at remarkably similar rates across class levels, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control. In fact, children at roughly the middle of the income distribution and above consume slightly more than those at the bottom. The survey of 5,000 people found that children at less than 130 percent of the poverty level get 11.5 percent of their calories from fast food, while those above 350 percent got 13 percent.
(Graph courtesy of the Washington Post.)
It's certainly possible that these percentages of caloric intake would go down for the truly upper class. (Median household income in the U.S. is around 400 percent of the poverty level.) But the fact that the over 350 percent crowd got more calories from fast food is striking — as Roberto Ferdman noted at the Washington Post, there's a common assumption that economic necessity drives poorer families to rely more heavily on fast food because it's cheap and convenient.
That said, the poor face lots of other barriers that prevent them from eating healthy even when they're relying on the rest of the U.S. food system. But this study does throw cold water on the idea that McDonald's and its fellow travelers are the center of the class-based health divide. Jeff Spross