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Retail Redlining: Are gasoline prices higher in poor and minority neighborhoods?

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  • Caitlin Knowles Myers

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  • Grace Close
  • Laurice Fox
  • John William Meyer
  • Madeline Niemi

Abstract

Higher retail prices are frequently cited as a cost of living in poor, minority neighborhoods. However, the empirical evidence, which primarilycomes from the grocery gap literature on food prices, has been mixed. This study uses new data on retail gasoline prices in three major U.S.cities to provide evidence on the relationship between neighborhood characteristics and consumer prices. We find that gasoline prices do not varygreatly with neighborhood racial composition, but that prices are higher in poor neighborhoods. For a 10 percentage point increase in the percentof families with incomes below the poverty line relative to families with incomes between 1 and 2 times the poverty line, retail gasoline prices are estimated to increase by an average of 0.70 percent. This differential is reduced to 0.22 percent once we add controls for costs, competition, and demand. Finally, we provide evidence that the remaining, small, price differential for poor neighborhoods is likely the result of traditional price discrimination in response to less competition and/or more inelastic demand in these locations.

Suggested Citation

  • Caitlin Knowles Myers & Grace Close & Laurice Fox & John William Meyer & Madeline Niemi, 2009. "Retail Redlining: Are gasoline prices higher in poor and minority neighborhoods?," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0906, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0906
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    File URL: http://www.middlebury.edu/services/econ/repec/mdl/ancoec/0906.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Myers, Caitlin Knowles, 2004. "Discrimination and neighborhood effects: understanding racial differentials in US housing prices," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 279-302, September.
    2. Lashawn Richburg Hayes, 2000. "Do the Poor Pay More? An Empirical Investigation of Price Dispersion in Food Retailing," Working Papers 825, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    3. Chouinard, Hayley & Perloff, Jeffrey M., 2004. "Incidence of federal and state gasoline taxes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 55-60, April.
    4. John A. List, 2004. "The Nature and Extent of Discrimination in the Marketplace: Evidence from the Field," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 49-89.
    5. Ayres, Ian & Siegelman, Peter, 1995. "Race and Gender Discrimination in Bargaining for a New Car," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 304-321, June.
    6. Goldberg, Pinelopi Koujianou, 1996. "Dealer Price Discrimination in New Car Purchases: Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 622-654, June.
    7. Lashawn Richburg Hayes, 2000. "Do the Poor Pay More? An Empirical Investigation of Price Dispersion in Food Retailing," Working Papers 825, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    8. repec:pri:crcwel:446.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Jan Ondrich & Stephen Ross & John Yinger, 2003. "Now You See It, Now You Don't: Why Do Real Estate Agents Withhold Available Houses from Black Customers?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 854-873, November.
    10. repec:pri:crcwel:446 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Kaufman, Phillip R. & MacDonald, James M. & Lutz, Steve M. & Smallwood, David M., 1997. "Do the Poor Pay More for Food? Item Selection and Price Differences Affect Low-Income Household Food Costs," Agricultural Economics Reports 34065, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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    Cited by:

    1. Adriaan R. Soetevent & Tadas Bruzikas, 2017. "The Impact of Process Innovation on Prices: Evidence from Automated Fuel Retailing in The Netherlands," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 17-045/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Yelowitz, Aaron & Scott, Frank & Beck, Jason, 2011. "The market for real estate brokerage services in low- and high-income neighborhoods: A 6 city study," MPRA Paper 35608, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Bruzikas, Tadas & Soetevent, Adriaan, 2014. "Detailed data and changes in market structure," Research Report 14027-EEF, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).

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