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Urban sprawl and the emergence of food deserts in the USA

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  • Shima Hamidi

Abstract

Providing access to a variety of healthy and affordable foods has been the goal of several federal and state policy initiatives in the USA. The first step towards the successful implementation of these initiatives is to identify food deserts and to understand the mechanism by which food deserts arise. This national-level study investigates the association between urban sprawl and the emergence of food deserts at both regional and neighbourhood levels. Multilevel analysis is used to model the likelihood of a census tract being a food desert, controlling for sociodemographic and built environmental characteristics. We find that urban sprawl, measured via a compactness index, holds a significant association with the likelihood of a census tract being a food desert. Specifically, a one unit increase in the compactness index is associated with a 5.6% decrease in the odds of a census tract being a food desert. In conclusion, we recommend increasing the land use density, mix and walkability of neighbourhoods to create a supportive and attractive environment for food retailers in which to invest.

Suggested Citation

  • Shima Hamidi, 2020. "Urban sprawl and the emergence of food deserts in the USA," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 57(8), pages 1660-1675, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:urbstu:v:57:y:2020:i:8:p:1660-1675
    DOI: 10.1177/0042098019841540
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    References listed on IDEAS

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