Abstract: When Uncle Sam Partnered with Ronald McDonald: How the Federal Government Helped the Fast Food Industry Expand into America's Inner Cities

Chin Jou


This paper considers the role of the federal government in the expansion of the fast food industry into America's inner cities since the 1960s. In the mid-to-late 1960s, race riots took place in many cities, including Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Newark. During and after the urban unrest, activists called for economic development in African American communities. In response, federal policymakers sought solutions to high unemployment among young African Americans, as well as low minority business ownership. Some of their well-intentioned solutions included supporting fast food franchises in inner cities, particularly if the restaurants could create jobs and more minority business owners. Corporate fast food franchisors had also been looking to expand into inner cities and other untested markets, so they seized this opportunity at government-subsidized expansion. But today, many inner cities are saturated with fast food restaurants—a circumstance that some health advocates and researchers believe contributes to disproportionately high rates of obesity among the low-income minority residents of the these communities.