Princeton University Library Catalog

Money on My Mind: How Financial Scarcity Affects Dietary Decisions

Rufin, Teresa [Browse]
Senior thesis
Shafir, Eldar [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Princeton University. Program in Global Health and Health Policy [Browse]
Class year:
Summary note:
Obesity is currently one of the biggest health crises in the United States, and it disproportionately affects low-income areas of the country at a higher rate. Numerous explanations have been offered to explain the paradox between overfed and undernourished, but few have investigated the influence of stress and cognitive taxation faced by individuals living in financial scarcity. This study aimed to investigate a possible causal relationship between mental strain caused by financial concerns and nutritional choices. 100 visitors to a food pantry in Trenton answered either difficult or easy questions regarding hypothetical financial dilemmas, and were offered a choice of either a low-fat or regular snack while they completed the study. I hypothesize that participants who answered more difficult financial questions would be more likely to choose the regular snack option over participants who answered easier financial questions. Consistent with my prediction, the results showed a significant difference between the easy and difficult groups in how many low fat versus regular snacks they chose. Despite the promise of these results, this study contained a number of limitations and only offers a preliminary investigation into a possible cognitive mechanism attributed to food choices among the poor. However, the findings provide a strong motivation for further research into this relationship.