America, land of the hungry and unhealthy?

ECON36Some new research paints an unflattering picture about the relationship between the United States and food.

Buried in a Pew Research report about emerging "second world" economies and their expectations for the future is the news that about one in four Americans could not afford food in the last year. (HT to Salon for bringing this to my attention.) That ranks the U.S. among the "most hungry" among advanced economies:

Despite being the richest country in the survey, nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they had trouble putting food on the table in the past 12 months. This reported level of deprivation is closer to that in Indonesia or Greece rather than Britain or Canada.

Put that data together with a growing body of evidence that immigrants to the United States develop worse health and live shorter lives than their foreign parents. According to the New York Times (with a HT to Kottke), the longer people live in this country, the more high blood pressure and diabetes, despite having higher incomes:

The pattern goes against any notion that moving to America improves every aspect of life. It also demonstrates that at least in terms of health, worries about assimilation for the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants are mistaken. In fact, it is happening all too quickly.

“There’s something about life in the United States that is not conducive to good health across generations,” said Robert A. Hummer, a social demographer at the University of Texas at Austin.

There's considerable debate over why this is. Fast food? Less walking? Genetic factors of the highest percentage of immigrants? Either way, it shouldn't be too surprising given that the U.S. is also the most obese country in the world.

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  1. If about one in four Americans could not afford food in the last year, does that mean they are dying of starvation?
    Claims like this make one wonder if anything the experts say is true.

    • Pete, Perhaps somebody should put you on a tight budget for a month or so so that you can understand the problem. A grocery cart full of cheap crap does not make for a proper diet.

  2. I am not surprised. Incomes have gone down, the cost of groceries has gone up. Fresh produce and healthier foods are further out of the reach of poor and lower class Americans than ever before so our consumption of unhealthy, cheap foods increases. The fact that many Americans don't really know how to cook anything that doesn't come in a box with instructions on it further compounds our health crisis. We really need to stop letting big businesses (including big agribusiness & the processed foods industry) call the shots in our economy.