Special Report

States With the Most McDonald’s

Colman Andrews

Detailed findings

For its part, McDonald’s, while defending itself against accusations of targeting children and minority communities with its advertising, has seemingly acknowledged the public perception that its food has deleterious effects on communities. In 2012, the company agreed to provide nutritional information on its menus. In 2013, the chain announced that it was partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation to address childhood obesity and establish a system “that makes the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Among the commitments McDonald’s offered were to feature only water, milk, or juice on Happy Meal menu boards and child-directed advertising; to offer salad or a fruit or vegetable option as a substitute for fries in value meals; and to include a “fun” nutrition or well-being message in all external advertising aimed at children. It should be noted, however, that the chain plans to implement these initiatives in only 20 major markets, and it has given itself until 2020 to do so.

In compiling our data, we included not just the number of McDonald’s locations in each state, but also the number of locations per 100,000 residents — the concentration of McDonald’s stores ranges from 5.76 per 100,000 residents in first-place Arkansas to 2.93 in last-place Rhode Island. We also included obesity rates, vegetable consumption rates, and median income. In general, states with greater concentrations of McDonald’s tend to have lower median incomes and report worse health outcomes than those with smaller McDonald’s concentrations.

Interestingly, the number of McDonald’s around the country is shrinking. We found 13,948 of them this year, down from 15,828 in 2016. This may be due in part to a company decision to discourage so-called “mom and pop” franchisees in favor of larger operations. The chain has also experienced declining customer traffic in the United States in recent years.

Only five states have more McDonald’s today than they did two years ago, with the most significant growth, 13.8%, coming in Hawaii. In most states, however, the number of locations dropped considerably between 2016 and this year. Leading the downward trend is Rhode Island, where the number of McDonald’s restaurants fell from 44 in 2016 to only 31 this year, a nearly 30% decline. Close on the Ocean State’s heels was Ohio, where the decline was 25.2%, from 823 locations to 616.

Don’t worry, though: Those Golden Arches aren’t likely to go anywhere soon, and there are still 4.28 McDonald’s for every 100,000 Americans nationwide.

Methodology

To determine the states with the most McDonald’s, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the number of McDonald’s locations per 100,000 residents with data from the McDonald’s online restaurant locator. Data on population came from the U.S. Census Bureau and is for 2017. Data on median household income came from the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. Obesity data came from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Data on the percentage of adults who consume fruit and vegetables less than once a day came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is for 2015. All data is for the most recent period available.