I just finished and posted to the working paper directory of this website research that asks “Is it really just the poor who eat fast food?” This question is important because some cities are banning or thinking of banning fast food restaurants in the belief this will improve poor people’s health. For example, Los Angeles in 2008 banned all new fast food restaurants from opening in the low income neighborhoods of South L.A.
I rarely eat fast food and when I do it is almost always in an airport as I run between flights. Banning these kind of restaurants will not impact my eating habits. Even though the bans do not affect me I thought the topic was interesting to examine.
The National Longitudinal Survey (NLS), which is the giant survey I work on at Ohio State, asked respondents how often they eat fast food and drink soda. Using the NLS data the results are pretty clear. It is not just the poor who eat fast food, but everyone in the USA.
For example, over sixty percent (61.4%) of millionaires ate fast-food at least once over a two week period. Almost ten percent (9.7%) of millionaires ate fast food more than three times in one week.
The results in the research suggest that policy makers who want to reduce fast food eating should first get people to read nutritional labels and check the ingredient list before they eat. Second they should encourage people to reduce the amount of soda they drink. Banning restaurants is not the way to go. For more details I encourage you to see the working paper.