Childhood Obesity and Food Deserts: Is There a Connection? New AAEA Member Research

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New research on nationwide epidemic featured in "American Journal of Agricultural Economics"

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"Given the magnitude of effects we found, there may be more cost-effective ways of fighting childhood obesity."

The numbers are staggering when it comes to children’s health in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has doubled in the past 30 years. In 2012 more than 1/3 of children and adolescents were either obese or overweight.

Many blame “food deserts” for the problem; areas typically found in low-income neighborhoods lacking access to supermarkets. There are even policies in place to give incentives to companies that open stores in food deserts.

That blame may be misplaced according to results found in “The Effects of Food Deserts on the BMI of Elementary Schoolchildren.” This paper, authored by Michael R. Thomsen and colleagues from the University of Arkansas, is featured in the December 2015 issue of the “American Journal of Agricultural Economics,” an AAEA publication.

Professor Thomsen analyzed statewide data of schoolchildren in Arkansas and looked for the impact food deserts had on their Body Mass Index (BMI) results.

“There is an effect but not a huge effect,” Thomsen said. “It doesn’t explain the childhood obesity crisis. Given the magnitude of effects we found, there may be more cost-effective ways of fighting childhood obesity.”

Could the results in Arkansas help other states find ways to win that fight against childhood obesity? You can click here to see the complete paper. To schedule an interview with Professor Thomsen, please contact Jay Saunders in the AAEA business office.

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Jay Saunders
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