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