How Income Affects the Weight of America

Apr 15, 2014 No Comments by

In the United States, over two-thirds of Americans are considered obese. According to James A. Levine of the American Diabetes Association, the more affluent a country is the higher the rate of obesity. However, American plumpness is not just related to the affluence of the nation.  Numerous other factors contribute to the obesity rate.  One worth noting is the relationship between obesity and income.

According to Levine, in 2010, 15.1% of Americans lived in poverty. That is around 47,398,900 people living below the poverty line. Contrary to global trends, in the US, people who live in poverty stricken areas tend to be the most overweight.

This trend can be explained by looking at the available fresh food markets to those who live in low-income areas. Typically, fresh food is not readily available.  Many Americans are living in the middle of a food desert. This means that the residents can not easily access fresh produce and other healthy alternatives so they are forced to consume processed and unhealthy foods.

Additionally, low-income metropolitan areas have a higher crime rate than other higher income areas. Higher crime rates deter residents from exercising outside.  People are less likely to be active if confined inside and high crime makes going outside to exercise less appealing.  Deprived of the ability to exercise outside and to buy healthy food, residents in low-income areas gradually become overweight and obese.

The following graphs illustrate how income affects the obesity rates in the U.S.  They show that in low-income metropolitan areas the obesity rate is higher than in metropolitan areas that have a higher income rate.


According to the Food Research and Action Center, 30% of low income preschool-aged children are considered obese. Obesity in children is rapidly increasing. This trend is especially evident in African American and Hispanic children and children living in the southern portion of the U.S.

Sadly, if access to fresh produce and nutrition education is not provided to the families living in low-income neighborhoods, obesity will not be the only problem the U.S. will have to deal with. Some health problems that come hand-in-hand with obesity are diabetes, metabolic diseases and premature death.

As a result, health care will become more expensive. It should be of the utmost importance to provide healthy alternatives to processed food so that the U.S. economy and the overall well being of its citizens can be improved.

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