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Soc Sci Med. 2015 Oct;142:47-55. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.08.005. Epub 2015 Aug 6.

The neoliberal diet and inequality in the United States.

Author information

1
Simon Fraser University, School for International Studies, 7200-515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BCV6B 5K3, Canada. Electronic address: otero@sfu.ca.
2
Department of Sociology, University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, BC, Canada.
3
Simon Fraser University, School for International Studies, 7200-515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BCV6B 5K3, Canada.
4
Simon Fraser University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada.

Abstract

This paper discusses increasing differentiation of U.S. dietary components by socioeconomic strata and its health implications. While upper-income groups have had increasing access to higher-quality foods, lower-to-middle-income class diets are heavily focused on "energy-dense" fares. This neoliberal diet is clearly associated with the proliferation of obesity that disproportionately affects the poor. We provide a critical review of the debate about obesity from within the critical camp in food studies, between individual-focused and structural perspectives. Using official data, we show how the US diet has evolved since the 1960s to a much greater emphasis on refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils. Inequality is demonstrated by dividing the population into households-income quintiles and how they spend on food. We then introduce our Neoliberal Diet Risk Index (NDR), comprised of measures of food-import dependency, the Gini coefficient, rates of urbanization, female labor-force participation, and economic globalization. Our index serves to measure the risk of exposure to the neoliberal diet comparatively, across time and between nations. We conclude that only a societal actor like the state can redirect the food-production system by modifying its agricultural subsidy policies. Inequality-reducing policies will make the healthier food involved in such change widely available for all.

KEYWORDS:

Diet; Food; Health inequalities; Inequality; Neoliberalism; Nutrition; Obesity

PMID:
26282708
DOI:
10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.08.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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