NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Geography of Poverty and Nutrition: Food Deserts and Food Choices Across the United States

Hunt Allcott, Rebecca Diamond, Jean-Pierre Dubé

NBER Working Paper No. 24094
Issued in December 2017, Revised in January 2018
NBER Program(s):Health Economics, Industrial Organization, Public Economics

We study the causes of “nutritional inequality”: why the wealthy tend to eat more healthfully than the poor in the U.S. Using event study designs exploiting supermarket entry and households' moves to healthier neighborhoods, we reject that neighborhood environments have meaningful effects on healthy eating. Using a structural demand model, we find that exposing low-income households to the same availability and prices experienced by high-income households reduces nutritional inequality by only 9%, while the remaining 91% is driven by differences in demand. These findings contrast with discussions of nutritional inequality that emphasize supply-side factors such as food deserts.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24094

 
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