Pittsburghers brag about a lot of things: the Steelers, getting ranked in national magazines, etc. Now they have a new distinction to gloat about: takeout.
According to health and wellness platform Vitagene, Pittsburgh spends the second most on takeout of any city in the U.S. Only Seattle tops the Steel City, where residents spend an average of $199 a month on takeout dining. (Seattleites spend $210 a month).
While this might provide an explanation of how all those pizza shops without seating have stayed in business, this new data might not be a cause to celebrate. Pittsburghers may be spending too much of their dough on pizza.
For example, Pittsburghers spend more than San Franciscans on takeout, despite the fact that San Francisco’s median household income is more than double that of Pittsburgh.
This gives Pittsburgh the rare distinction of spending large amounts of dollars on takeout, as well as spending a large percentage of personal income on takeout. Pittsburghers spend 5.3 percent of their yearly income on takeout. Only cities with very low median incomes, like Detroit and Cleveland, spend higher percentages of their income on takeout. According to census figures, Pittsburgh residents’ median household income is about $44,000.
Pittsburghers could also save the second-most amount of any city if residents here substituted takeout meals with home-cooked ones. Vitagene factored in average costs of groceries and found Pittsburghers could save $1,366 a year.
That alone could raise city residents’ median income by 3 percent. For comparison, San Franciscans would only increase their median income by 1.3 percent if they swapped out takeout for home-cooked meals.
“Take-out is a great option for those days when you’re working late or in a pinch, but the cost of those lazy nights adds up quickly, and generally, the options you’re reaching for are less healthy!” reads the Vitagene blog about takeout spending.
Similar cities to Pittsburgh, like St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Baltimore, all spend under $2,000 a year on takeout. Pittsburghers spend an average of $2,388 a year. Pittsburgh is a clear outlier among comparable Rust Belt cities, as it spends similar amounts to much wealthier cities.
It’s difficult to determine what about Pittsburgh contributes to such high takeout spending. Pittsburgh is one of the most economically and racially unequal cities in the country, and food deserts align with low-income and Black neighborhoods.
And maybe college students are spending an outsize portion on takeout, since Oakland has limited options for full-service grocery stores. But maybe Pittsburghers are just lazy and don’t want to cook after they get home from work.
Either way, it’s something to chew on.