I’m not really sure whether to be proud or mortified right now. It took a joint team of top-flight economists from my two alma-maters, UC Berkeley and Columbia University and a comprehensive study taken from 1,000 California high schools and examining a diverse swath of the state’s 3 million 9th graders to determine that McDonalds (or rather, proximity to McDonalds) makes students fat. Nay, obese. Their study is remarkable not only for its exhaustive scope, but because it is the first obesity study to directly and irrefutably link fatitude and the fast food industry. Which should prove a pretty big deal. I’ll spare you the supersize jokes.
Economists Stefano DellaVigna and Enrico Moretti of UC Berkeley, economist Janet Currie of Columbia University and recent Berkeley econ Ph.Dizzel Vikram Pathania determined that 9th graders are more than 5% more likely to be obese if their school is within a tenth of a mile of a fastfood chain. The LATimes has an anecdotal lede and a map, but the numbers should speak for themselves.
According to the study:
Ultimately, the effect of changes in the supply of fast food on obesity is an
empirical question. We find that among 9th grade children, the presence of a fast-food restaurant within a tenth of a mile of a school is associated with an increase of about 1.7 percentage points in the fraction of students in a class who are obese relative to the presence at .25 miles. This effect amounts to a 5.2 percent increase in the incidence of obesity. Since grade 9 is the first year of high school and the fitness tests take place in the Spring, the period of fast-food exposure is approximately 30 weeks, implying an increased caloric intake of 30 to 100 calories per school-day. The effect is larger in models that include school fixed effects. Consistent with highly non–linear transportation costs, we find no discernible effect at .25 miles and at .5 miles. The effect is largest for Hispanic students and female students
Holy burgers Batman! If you take California’s past action as precedent (banning sugary drinks in schools, quashing bakesales, Terminating transfats and South LA’s fastfood moratorium) there’s no way this is going unnoticed.