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Abstract

Food deserts and their potential effects on diet and nutrition have received much attention from policymakers. While some research has found correlations between food deserts and consumer outcomes, it is unclear whether food deserts truly affect consumption behavior. In this paper, we compare food prices in food deserts and non-food deserts to check whether lack of access is associated with higher food prices of a complete diet, which could constrain the consumption of healthy foods in food deserts. We use data on store-level sales from a nationally representative sample and calculate a census-tract level Exact Price Index (EPI) based on a food baskets defined by the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). To address potential biases, we control for both product heterogeneity and variety availability.

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