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Cheap food at a what cost?: Dollar stores and urban segregation

Authors: Jerry Shannon*, University of Georgia
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Economic Geography, United States
Keywords: food access, dollar stores, segregation, community health
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 2:25 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Virtual Track 1
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Much recent research on food environments and health has focused on the procurement habits and daily mobility of food consumers. Yet little corresponding work has been done on the shifting geographic reach of food retailers. By using categorical classifications of these retailers, such as supermarket or convenience store, analyses of change in the retail food environment may neglect how these corporate actors implement chain-specific locational strategies tailored to changing local demographic characteristics. The results of these locational decisions can have large implications for community wellbeing ranging from the availability of healthy foods to broader patterns of community development.

This research focuses on this issue by examining the expansion of dollar stores in the years following the Great Recession. The number of SNAP-authorized retailers in the three major dollar store chains—Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar--skyrocketed from 12,188 in 2008 to 29,433 in 2018, an increase of 141%. This project focuses specifically on retailer expansion in the 27 largest U.S. metropolitan areas during this period. Through exploratory analysis and statistical modeling, I analyze the link between dollar store growth and tract-level racial and economic characteristics. My results show a persistent and growing positive association between dollar store growth and segregated communities of color, independent of income. These results underscore the need for more research on the impact dollar stores have on residents’ health in marginalized communities.

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