Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Effects of New Grocery Store Development on Inner-City Neighborhood Residential Prices

Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Effects of New Grocery Store Development on Inner-City Neighborhood Residential Prices

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formula omitted.)

The burgeoning obesity epidemic in the United States (Nguyen and El-Serag 2010, Flegal et al. 2012), with large disparities among different population groups along ethnicity and socioeconomic lines (Wang and Beydoun 2007), has highlighted the need for access to affordable healthy food throughout the United States. The presence of strong residential segregation in housing markets among these socioeconomic groups may affect the local food environment, which potentially can be a factor in leading to these negative health outcomes for disadvantaged groups. Geographic areas lacking in affordable healthy food have been termed food deserts, and a growing research literature from many academic disciplines has demonstrated that these food deserts are more likely to occur in poorer neighborhoods (Powell et al. 2007, Chen et al. 2010, Walker, Keane, and Burke 2010). These geographic regions are more likely to have more convenience stores and fast food outlets than grocery stores, resulting in less healthy food consumption and worse health outcomes for their residents (Brown et al. 2008, Galvez et al. 2009). Other studies have demonstrated the positive relationship between access to grocery stores offering a greater variety of healthy food at lower prices and improved health outcomes for neighborhood residents (Morland et al. 2002, Zenk et al. 2005, Moore and Roux 2006, Auld and Powell 2008, Krukowski et al. 2010, Yan, Bastian, and Griffin 2015).

These linkages between food deserts and poor health outcomes for their residents has led the U.S. Federal Government to establish the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), a partnership among the Treasury Department, Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Holzman 2010), with over $140 million in grants distributed since 2011, funding a range of projects to increase access to healthy foods (Healthy Food Access Portal 2015) and with continued support of $125 million authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill (USDA 2014). In addition, a portion of Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign has worked with grocery chains including SUPERVALU, Walgreens, Walmart and regional retailers such as California Fresh Works Fund and Brown's Super Store (The White House Office of the First Lady, 2011) that have pledged to open more stores in underserved areas. However, it is too early to tell if either of these two new initiatives have had an impact on the health outcomes of residents in these communities (Cummins, Flint, and Matthews 2014).

With this new policy focus on expanding grocery stores in food deserts, we investigate a related but under-researched question: what are the effects of new urban grocery stores on residential property values? As discussed above, many of these geographic areas often are home to lower-income residents; any changes in their housing prices may affect their financial health as well. We use an interesting case study of Worcester Massachusetts, to help shed light on this question. Worcester is the second largest city in New England, with a population of approximately 181,000 in 2010, located in central Massachusetts, about 50 miles west of Boston. While Worcester has a larger minority population than the state as a whole (36 vs. 22 percent) and lower income ($43,492 in 2012, about two thirds of the state median household income), which are the usual sociodemographic characteristics of residents in food deserts, between 1988 and 2012, 12 new grocery stores opened in the city, tripling the number of grocery stores in the city, during a time frame when overall population increased by approximately 7 percent and new home construction was at the lowest level of the past 60 years (Executive Office of Economic Development, City of Worcester, MA, 2012). Strikingly, these new grocery store openings occurred before any of the recent policy initiatives in Massachusetts, such as the passage in 2014 of the Massachusetts Food Trust Program to authorize $2 million for food initiatives in low- and moderate-income communities. …

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