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The skinny on big box retailing: Wal-Mart, warehouse clubs, and obesity

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  • Courtemanche, Charles
  • Carden, Art

Abstract

Research attributes much of the rise in obesity to technological progress reducing the cost of food consumption. We examine this hypothesis in the context of Walmart Supercenters, whose advancements in retail logistics have translated to substantial reductions in food prices. Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System matched with Walmart Supercenter entry dates and locations, we examine the effects of Supercenters on body mass index (BMI) and obesity. We account for the endogeneity of Walmart Supercenter locations with an instrumental variables approach that exploits the unique geographical pattern of Supercenter expansion around Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. An additional Supercenter per 100,000 residents increases average BMI by 0.25 units and the obesity rate by 2.4 percentage points. These results imply that the proliferation of Walmart Supercenters explains 11% of the rise in obesity since the late 1980s, but the resulting increase in medical expenditures offsets only a small portion of consumers’ savings from shopping at Supercenters.

Suggested Citation

  • Courtemanche, Charles & Carden, Art, 2009. "The skinny on big box retailing: Wal-Mart, warehouse clubs, and obesity," MPRA Paper 25326, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:25326
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    Cited by:

    1. Leibtag, Ephraim S. & Barker, Catherine & Dutko, Paula, 2010. "How Much Lower Are Prices at Discount Stores? An Examination of Retail Food Prices," Economic Research Report 96767, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Walmart; Wal-Mart; supercenter; obesity; body weight; body mass index;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R10 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General
    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General

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