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Timing is Everything: The Role of Time and the Business Cycle in Fast-Food Purchasing Behavior in the United States


  • Hamrick, Karen
  • Okrent, Abigail


Meals, snacks, and beverages purchased at fast-food restaurants have become a large and growing portion of a typical American’s budget, and have been blamed for American’s expanding waistlines and poor diet quality. Previous studies have attributed this increase to many factors including budget and time constraints, demographic and health characteristics and market-level forces but no study has been able to rigorously address the effects of all of these variables on the demand for fast foods. This study uses the 2003-11 American Time Use Survey to identify associations between fast-food purchases and individual, household, and market characteristics. The primary findings of this study are: (1) Americans purchase fast food as a means of saving time in non-market activities—those that purchase fast food are associated with less time in sleep, housework, eating and drinking meals and television watching, and more time in traveling from place to place; (2) fast-food purchasers have different eating patterns than others, spending less time eating and drinking and are more likely to eat while working or driving; (3) the probability of fast-food purchase was postively associated with employment status but negatively associated with the number of hours worked by the individual in the day; and (4) the percent of the population purchasing fast food on a given day stayed fairly constant during and after the 2007-09 recession, seemingly unaffected by the economic downturn.

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  • Hamrick, Karen & Okrent, Abigail, 2014. "Timing is Everything: The Role of Time and the Business Cycle in Fast-Food Purchasing Behavior in the United States," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170156, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea14:170156

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2013. "Time Use during the Great Recession," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1664-1696, August.
    2. Janet Currie & Stefano DellaVigna & Enrico Moretti & Vikram Pathania, 2010. "The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity and Weight Gain," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 32-63, August.
    3. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
    4. Susan Elizabeth Chen & Raymond J. Florax & Samantha D. Snyder, 2013. "Obesity and fast food in urban markets: a new approach using geo‐referenced micro data," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(7), pages 835-856, July.
    5. Alviola, Pedro A. & Nayga, Rodolfo M. & Thomsen, Michael R. & Danforth, Diana & Smartt, James, 2014. "The effect of fast-food restaurants on childhood obesity: A school level analysis," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 12(C), pages 110-119.
    6. Dave, Dhaval M. & Kelly, Inas Rashad, 2012. "How does the business cycle affect eating habits?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 254-262.
    7. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2008.137638_9 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2009:99:s3:s636-643_2 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Günseli Berik & Ebru Kongar, 2013. "Time Allocation of Married Mothers and Fathers in Hard Times: The 2007--09 US Recession," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 208-237, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yoder, Samantha & Visich, John K. & Rustambekov, Elzotbek, 2016. "Lessons learned from international expansion failures and successes," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 233-243.

    More about this item


    Food away from home; FAFH; fast food; time use; American Time Use Survey; Great Recession; time pressure; Agricultural and Food Policy; Consumer/Household Economics;

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