Dough for Dough: How Socioeconomic Status Affects Gluten-Free Eating




Tai, Jennie

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With the growing number of gluten-related conditions around the world, it is important to identify the circumstances of people in low socioeconomic communities that influence and potentially deter healthy eating patterns and broader health inequalities. Conducting my own research, I interviewed 84 low-income, gluten-free eaters and surveyed 552 gluten-free individuals across all income levels to understand the drivers of attitudes and behaviors towards diets that are best understood through qualitative research. I found that gluten-free substitutes were about twice as expensive per ounce than their non-gluten-free counterparts. About 60% of respondents from both income groups stated no healthcare professional ever taught them about gluten or how to eat gluten-free. This led to a knowledge gap and certain deficiencies in their diets, all of which can be detrimental to people’s health. The interviews also showed that low-income, gluten-free eaters do not make the same dietary choices as other low-income, non-gluten-free eaters might, which meant that the gluten-free diet acts as a forcing factor for healthy eating. Finally, I discovered a correlation between people who have been gluten-free for a longer period of time and having the skills to purchase and prepare gluten-free foods easily and more economically. Much of the conclusions in this paper are data-driven from the surveys and rely on the interview results. This thesis focuses on the social implications of the gluten-free diet and understanding how socioeconomic status affects people’s coping mechanisms with their gluten-related conditions.


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