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An Economic View of Food Deserts in the United States

August 2010

Marianne Bitler, University of California-Irvine, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and NBER, and Steven J. Haider, Michigan State University

Download 'working_paper10-09.pdf'.


Considerable policy and academic attention has been focused on the topic of food deserts. We consider this topic from an economic perspective. First, we consider how the components of a standard economic analysis apply to the study of food deserts. Second, using this economic lens, we revisit the empirical literature on food deserts to assess the progress that has been made regarding whether food deserts are problematic in the US. Overall, despite several studies documenting the existence of food deserts in local areas, shortcomings in available data have not allowed researchers to convincingly document the presence or absence of food deserts on a national scale, and virtually no research has provided insight as to why food deserts might exist.

Employment, Unemployment, and the Labor Market