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Abstract

I document differences in produce consumption across low and high socioeconomic status (SES) households using a large nationally representative panel. I show that the differences are great enough to be major contributors to disparities in diet-based diseases across SES. I argue that the efficacy of public health policies aimed at improving health disparities by improving access to retailers that offer healthy foods can be gauged by measuring the impact that shifting households’ shopping frequency curve has on fresh produce consumption. I estimate a household-level random effects model of households’ joint decision of shopping frequency and produce consumption using an instrumental variables approach. The model is a coupled dynamic system that allows me to decompose SES-produce consumption disparities into direct SES effects and indirect SES effects through shopping frequency. I conclude that the indirect effects are not substantial enough to motivate policy intended to reduce health inequity across SES by reducing disparities in access to food retailers that offer healthful food.

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