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

  • Courtemanche, Charles
  • Carden, Art

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.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 25326.

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Date of creation: 15 Dec 2009
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:25326
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  1. Emek Basker, 2006. "The Causes and Consequences of Wal-Mart's Growth," Working Papers 0611, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  2. Carden, Art & Courtemanche, Charles & Meiners, Jeremy, 2008. "Painting the Town Red? Wal-Mart and Values," Working Papers 09-5, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics, revised 01 Apr 2009.
  3. Emek Basker & Michael Noel, 2007. "The Evolving Food Chain: Competitive Effects of Wal-Mart's Entry into the Supermarket Industry," Working Papers 0712, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  4. Emek Basker, 2003. "Job Creation or Destruction? Labor-Market Effects of Wal-Mart Expansion," Labor and Demography 0303002, EconWPA, revised 11 Mar 2005.
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  7. Jerry Hausman & Ephraim Leibtag, 2009. "CPI Bias from Supercenters: Does the BLS Know that Wal-Mart Exists?," NBER Chapters, in: Price Index Concepts and Measurement, pages 203-231 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ranney, Christine K. & McNamara, Paul E., 2002. "Do Healthier Diets Cost More?," 2002 Annual meeting, July 28-31, Long Beach, CA 19588, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
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  10. Emek Basker, 2007. "When Good Instruments Go Bad," Working Papers 0706, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
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  18. Andrew J. Plantinga & Stephanie Bernell, 2007. "The Association Between Urban Sprawl And Obesity: Is It A Two-Way Street?," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(5), pages 857-879.
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  20. Anderson, Michael L. & Matsa, David A., 2008. "Are restuarants really supersizing America?," CUDARE Working Paper Series 1056R4, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy, revised Jul 2010.
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  27. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  28. Courtemanche, Charles, 2009. "Rising cigarette prices and rising obesity: Coincidence or unintended consequence?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 781-798, July.
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  34. Stephan J. Goetz & Anil Rupasingha, 2006. "Wal-Mart and Social Capital," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1304-1310.
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