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Food Deserts and the Causes of Nutritional Inequality

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Listed:
  • Hunt Allcott
  • Rebecca Diamond
  • Jean-Pierre Dubé
  • Jessie Handbury
  • Ilya Rahkovsky
  • Molly Schnell

Abstract

We study the causes of “nutritional inequality”: why the wealthy eat more healthfully than the poor in the United States. Exploiting supermarket entry and household moves to healthier neighborhoods, we reject that neighborhood environments contribute meaningfully to nutritional inequality. We then estimate a structural model of grocery demand, using a new instrument exploiting the combination of grocery retail chains’ differing presence across geographic markets with their differing comparative advantages across product groups. Counterfactual simulations show that exposing low-income households to the same products and prices available to high-income households reduces nutritional inequality by only about 10%, while the remaining 90% is driven by differences in demand. These findings counter the argument that policies to increase the supply of healthy groceries could play an important role in reducing nutritional inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Hunt Allcott & Rebecca Diamond & Jean-Pierre Dubé & Jessie Handbury & Ilya Rahkovsky & Molly Schnell, 2019. "Food Deserts and the Causes of Nutritional Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 134(4), pages 1793-1844.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:134:y:2019:i:4:p:1793-1844.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • R20 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - General

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