Volume 2, Number 2 (2009)

Super-Sizing America: Geography, income, fast food, and whole food

Susan J. Massad

Department of Consumer Sciences, Framingham State College



The rate of obesity in the United States has increased to an alarming degree. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides data on the state-by-state and nationwide obesity rates. Over the last 20 years, the rates have steadily risen. The nationwide obesity rate is approximately 23.6% (all categories combined – age, sex, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status). This study was undertaken to examine the relationships between obesity rates, per capita income, number of the popular fastfood (McDonald’s) restaurants, and number of whole foods grocery stores per capita. Data from previous studies regarding the causes of obesity, socioeconomic trends and food selection, state-by state obesity rates, use of federal food assistance programs, and the number of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide and nationwide and “Whole Foods” markets is reviewed. Correlation coefficients were computed to determine relationships between 1) state-by-state obesity rates and per capita income, 2) state-by-state obesity rates and McDonald’s per capita, 3) state-by-state per capita income and McDonald’s per capita, and 4) state-by-state per capita income Whole Foods grocery stores per capita. There was a statistically significant relationship between the obesity rates and number of McDonalds per capita; the 2 were positively correlated (r=0.27; p < 0.05), meaning that there were more McDonald’s in the states with higher obesity rates. ere was a statistically significant (negative correlation between per capita income and obesity rates(r = -0.49, p < 0.05). ere was no significant correlation between McDonald’s restaurants per capita and per capita income (r= -01213, p=0.40). There was a significant, positive correlation between the number of “Whole Foods” grocery stores (r = 0.576, p< 0.01) and per capita income. Results of this study indicate that income, and access to fast food restaurants and whole foods markets have some influence over obesity rates.

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