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

Author

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  • Jessie Handbury
  • Ilya Rahkovsky
  • Molly Schnell

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jessie Handbury & Ilya Rahkovsky & Molly Schnell, 2015. "Is the Focus on Food Deserts Fruitless? Retail Access and Food Purchases Across the Socioeconomic Spectrum," NBER Working Papers 21126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21126
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. Courtemanche, Charles & Carden, Art, 2011. "Supersizing supercenters? The impact of Walmart Supercenters on body mass index and obesity," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 165-181, March.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Noriko Amano, 2018. "Nutrition Inequality: The Role of Prices, Income, and Preferences," 2018 Meeting Papers 453, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Sumit Agarwal & J. Bradford Jensen & Ferdinando Monte, 2017. "The Geography of Consumption," Working Papers 2017-062, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    3. Matthew Freedman & Annemarie Kuhns, 2017. "Supply-Side Subsidies to Improve Food Access and Dietary Outcomes: Evidence from the New Markets Tax Credit," Working Papers 171804, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:9:p:2988-:d:165231 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Ver Ploeg, Michele L. & Mancino, Lisa & Dicken, Christopher W. & Farrigan, Tracey L. & Hertz, Thomas, 2017. "An Analysis of Exposure to Poor Food Environments and Diet-Related Health Outcomes," 2017 Annual Meeting, July 30-August 1, Chicago, Illinois 258218, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. Fan, Linlin & Baylis, Kathy & Gundersen, Craig & Ver Ploeg, Michele, 2015. "Does a Nutritious Diet Cost More in Food Deserts?," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205424, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    7. Chenarides, Lauren & Jaenicke, Edward C., 2016. "Store Choice and Consumer Behavior in Food Deserts: An Empirical Application of the Distance Metric Method," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Boston, Massachusetts 235925, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • R2 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis
    • R3 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location

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