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Social class differences in food consumption
The explanatory value of permissiveness and health and cost considerations

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/10.2.108 108-113 First published online: 1 June 2000


Background: Middle-class people generally have healthier diets than lower-class people. Considerations that underlie choices of foodstuffs may explain this class difference in eating habits. Qualitative studies on food beliefs show that lower-class mothers consider health less frequently in their choice of food, while they take the preferences of family members and expenses more often into account than their middle-class counterparts. In this paper quantitative survey data are used to explore the explanatory power of these factors. Methods: Data on 849 women living with a partner and at least one child in three European cities (Maastricht, The Netherlands, Liège, Belgium and Aachen, Germany) were analysed. Results: Regarding food consumption, most but not all class differences were in line with expectations. Class differences in food choice considerations corresponded with the findings of other studies. Middle-class mothers were less permissive and they considered health more often and costs less often than lower-class mothers. However, regression analyses indicated that these considerations scarcely explain class patterns in food consumption. Conclusions: This study shows that social class differences in food consumption are hardly explained by permissiveness, health or cost considerations.

  • costs
  • food consumption
  • health considerations
  • permissiveness
  • social class