Economic Research Service, USDA
355 E Street SW
Washington, DC 20024
Institutional Affiliation: Economic Research Service, USDA
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|December 2017||Food Deserts and the Causes of Nutritional Inequality|
with Hunt Allcott, Rebecca Diamond, Jean-Pierre Dubé, Jessie Handbury, Molly Schnell: w24094
We study the causes of “nutritional inequality”: why the wealthy eat more healthfully than the poor in the United States. Exploiting supermarket entry, household moves to healthier neighborhoods, and purchasing patterns among households with identical local supply, we reject that neighborhood environments contribute meaningfully to nutritional inequality. Using a structural demand model, we find that exposing low-income households to the same products and prices available to high-income households reduces nutritional inequality by only nine percent, while the remaining 91 percent is driven by differences in demand. These findings counter the common notion that policies to reduce supply inequities, such as “food deserts,” could play an important role in reducing nutritional inequality. By c...
|April 2015||Is the Focus on Food Deserts Fruitless? Retail Access and Food Purchases Across the Socioeconomic Spectrum|
with Jessie Handbury, Molly Schnell: w21126
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.
This paper has been subsumed by the authors’ later c...