wrangler / Shutterstock

Study Says Teens in Poor Families Go Hungry Before Younger Children

Teenage boys, in particular, are often left without enough to eat

wrangler / Shutterstock

The study is published as a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research.

When food is scarce in a household, how do parents distribute their minimal food supply? According to a new study by Johns Hopkins University, parents are the first to skip out on meals and often feed younger children first, leaving teens twice as likely to go hungry.

"If you're really poor, you try to sacrifice yourself first, but when you're forced to make some choices, these parents are deciding to let the teens not have enough — if they have to give up on something, they're giving up on teenagers," Robert Moffitt, Johns Hopkins University economist and lead author of the study, said. "It's hard to imagine parents having to do that."

The study analyzed a survey conducted from 1999 to 2005 of approximately 1,500 disadvantaged families in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio. The families who took the survey had incomes below the federal poverty line making around $18,696 a year.

Researchers found that 12 percent of adults said they suffered from extreme food hardship and about four percent of children went hungry.

According to the survey, six percent of children up to the age of 5 weren’t getting enough to eat. Older children up to the age of 11 showed similar results.

For children between the ages of 12 to 18, nearly 12 percent of them indicated they went hungry on a regular basis, with boys being affected the most at 14 percent compared to 10 percent of girls.


Researchers are unclear as to why teenage boys are going hungry more often than girls, but Moffitt believes that it may have to do with older boys being out of the house more or being more physically active and needing more calories.