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Is the Focus on Food Deserts Fruitless? Retail Access and Food Purchases Across the Socioeconomic Spectrum

Listed author(s):
  • Jessie Handbury
  • Ilya Rahkovsky
  • Molly Schnell

Using novel data describing the healthfulness of household food purchases and the retail landscapes consumers face, we measure the role of access in explaining why wealthier and more educated households purchase healthier foods. We find that spatial differences in access, though significant, are small relative to spatial differences in the nutritional content of sales. Socioeconomic disparities in nutritional consumption exist even among households with equivalent access, and the healthfulness of household consumption responds minimally to improvements in local retail environments. Our results indicate that access-improving policies alone will eliminate less than one third of existing socioeconomic disparities in nutritional consumption.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 21126.

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Date of creation: Apr 2015
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21126
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  1. Eugene Jones, 1997. "An Analysis of Consumer Food Shopping Behavior Using Supermarket Scanner Data: Differences by Income and Location," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1437-1443.
  2. Carlson, Andrea & Lino, Mark & Fungwe, Thomas V., 2007. "The Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal Food Plans, 2007," CNPP Reports 45850, United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
  3. Susan Chen & Raymond J. G. M. Florax & Samantha Snyder & Christopher C. Miller, 2010. "Obesity and Access to Chain Grocers," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 86(4), pages 431-452, October.
  4. Neil Wrigley & Daniel Warm & Barrie Margetts, 2003. "Deprivation, diet, and food-retail access: findings from the Leeds 'food deserts' study," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 35(1), pages 151-188, January.
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