Cause And Effect – Fast Food Outlets In Poor Areas Contra Rod Liddle

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Contrary to the musings of Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times there is a cause and effect going on over the placings of fast food restaurants or outlets in British towns. The provision of burnt chicken and maybemeatburgers to the hoi polloi is a hugely competitive business. This means that it is also low margin. So, where do you put the places that are in a low margin line of business?:

A new study from Oxford and Hong Kong universities suggests people who live in areas with a high density of fast food restaurants are 11% more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes. A kind of cause and effect is implied. As if the people living near 26 outlets that all have the word “chicken” in their names were being actively preyed upon by these caterers.

Perhaps pursuing them down the street, ramming burgers into their defenceless mouths and cackling as their guts expanded by the minute. It’s a false correlation of course. There is no cause and effect. Fast food restaurants tend to be at their densest in areas of low income.

It’s poverty that leads, somewhere down the line, to chronic illnesses, not living in between Hanif’s Halal Botuloburger bar and grill and Aunt Jemima’s Deep Fried Finger Lickin’ Blind Beakless Alien Creatures in a Bap Shack.

It’s not even true that poverty does lead to illness even though we can all think of times and circumstances when it does. To think that it is poverty only that causes illness is to make the Michael Marmot mistake. Sadly, given that he’s the national expert on the subject, a mistake that seems ensconced in the body politic. For it is also – equally obviously – true that illness can lead to poverty. That incapacitating heart disease that strikes you at 40 isn’t going to lead to you being wealthy at 50 now, is it?

However, this is about clustering of those nosh joints. Why are they in the poor areas? Well, for the same reason the poor are in the poor areas. They’re cheap. This being rather the defining point about poor people, they look for cheap places to live. The two are therefore synonymous, poor and cheap. And what is it we’ve just said about nosh? That it’s a low margin business. Therefore purveyors of the deep fried and battered saveloy – that joy of the ages – are going to be clustered in the poor part of town where they can afford the rents.

And that’s our cause and effect. Some poor people are poor because they’re, or have been, ill. They’re in the cheap part of town because they’re poor. Fried gut shops are in poor areas because they don’t make much money therefore they’re in the poor part of town. Absolutely any analysis of the phenomenon which doesn’t account for this is wrong. And no analysis done by anyone does take account of it – therefore all current analyses of the point are indeed wrong.

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Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

If you are poor and obese there is something else going on. Could it be one factor causing both conditions?

Southerner
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Southerner

In days of old the poor did low-paid manual labour which chewed up lots of calories. Badly-paid physical jobs have now morphed into badly-paid sedentary jobs.

Spike
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Rhoda, in fact, lack of personal discipline can cause both obesity and poverty. For example, fatties tend to be excuse-makers, blaming others (such as owners of fast-food joints and their advertising!) for their condition. This becomes evident in the job interview.

Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

That’s the one I meant, but to acknowledge that the poor largely make themselves poor (and fat where applicable) is to be evil in modern society. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know what the problem is.

Southerner
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Southerner

We are taking it for granted that Unidentified Frying Objects cause obesity and diabetes type XXX. I seem to remember a Penn & Teller episode where they tested the claim and found that there was nothing wrong with the nutrients per se. Your liver is unable to distinguish between the vitamins in a bucket of popcorn and those from organic kale. Your peptic ulcer might not like all the heated vegetable oil the stuff was fried in but that’s not the topic presently under discussion. Stodge has been part of the British diet since whenever and it’s only since the… Read more »

Spike
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No, the fact that low-rent victuals are served out of places that have low rent is a similarity not a causation. It is entirely feasible for a hamburger joint to be sited in a high-rent area, though of course the prices will rise to pay the rent. Restaurants are where they are because of the number of customers nearby. Well-off patrons tend to visit less often as they are also familiar with curry, traditional British, and other options, and are more likely to cook at home.

Spike
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Moreover, it’s now possible to get low-rent victuals amid America’s highest rents. Airports used to grant a single monopoly franchise to a restaurant. (This is the only reason ever to eat at Sbarro.) As the development of suburban airports gave the flying public a choice, airports opened food courts to make the public feel a bit less like hostages. The chains’ obsession for a consistent customer experience no longer extends to the prices on the menu.

It should be possible to get a Whopper at Disney World.

Bongo
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Bongo

There’s a saying that rich people travel to poor areas to get their cocaine. They also go there to get competitively priced convenient grub. They’re not daft. Which is part of the reason they are rich in the first place.
When somebody studies the customers of these places I’ll perk up and take notice. For now, I’ll stick to anecdata about my experience being that there is the same proportion of swanky cars at the drive-in as in the general motoring population.

Moosealot
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Moosealot

Rich people get their order delivered from Yusaf’s House of Vaguely Identifiable Body Parts by some guy in a 1997 Micra with every body panel a different colour and a stereo capable of playing only Awkward Techno. It doesn’t matter to them where the stuff is cooked (or some approximation thereto) provided it is within the delivery radius.

Hallowed Be
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Hallowed Be

hmm. An alternative occurs to the Tim hypothesis. In theory sausages are inferior goods. i.e. the higher your income the less you buy them and the more you buy filet mignon. It’s always bugged me a little bit because it would imply that as incomes increase then no more sausages, and that doesn’t happen. There appears to be a re-setting at some point and you also get luxury artisan sausages rolled on the thighs of young geminis that’ll cost you and arm and a leg, yet they’re still made out of… well never mind. Are fast food joints inferior services?… Read more »