One of the most deplorable aspects of the debate over Mayor Kenney's proposal to tax sugary beverages to fund more prekindergarten education, open community schools, and upgrade recreation centers is the tendency of both sides to stereotype the dietary habits of poor people to make their case.

Opponents of the tax, most notably the beverage industry, insist it would affect low-income families inequitably because they buy more sugary drinks. Some proponents suggest the same families would benefit most because a tax would reduce their disproportionate consumption of sweet drinks, which exacerbate the obesity problem in poor, minority communities.

A Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center report seeking to dispel "urban myths" about soda consumption, released Monday, concludes: "Every community - white, black and Latino; rich and poor - consumes a great deal of sugary drinks. Any differences in consumption between those communities pale in comparison to the across-the-board high level of consumption in all communities."

The report does note studies suggesting blacks consume more sugar-sweetened fruit juice and less soda than whites. A tax that raises the price of sugar-sweetened fruit juice might make unsweetened fruit juice, which is healthier, more attractive.

The report seems to indicate that Kenney was right not to stress the health benefits of a drink tax, which aren't clear. It's much easier to calculate the likely benefits of additional pre-K programs, school-based social services, and rehabilitated rec centers and libraries. Funding for those improvements would be money well spent.