Of course, if you frequent the grocery store, this may not come as a surprise. But the proof is in the data. According to this chart of inflation-adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of food we generally deem "unhealthy" -- soda, butter and beer have seen double-digit percentage price decreases as fish, vegetables and fruit have seen drastic increases.
Here's the outlay comparing now to 1978:
- Soda (orange line) is 33 percent cheaper
- Butter (dark brown) is 29 percent cheaper
- Beer (gray) is 15 percent cheaper
- Fish (yellow) is 2 percent more expensive
- Vegetables (purple) are 41 percent more expensive
- Fruits (green) are 46 percent more expensive.
- Bucking the trend, cookies (blue) are now more expensive.
David Leonhardt, who compiled the chart, offers more detail at the Economix blog:
The price of oranges, to take one extreme example (not shown in the chart), has more than doubled, relative to everything else. So if in 1978, a bag of oranges cost the same as one big bottle of soda, today that bag costs the same as three big bottles of soda.
Meanwhile, the average 18-year-old today is 15 pounds heavier than his or her counterpart in the 1970s, while adults have put on more than 20 pounds more than their 1970s selves.
As Leonhardt explains, it's all about how these products are taxed or subsidized -- and the resulting behavior by consumers when they arrive at the cash register.