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How Wealth and Education — Not Access — Drive Healthy Food Choices


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The higher the education levels of a U.S. household, the healthier the foods its members buy. Education levels — as opposed to income levels or access to supermarkets — determine food preferences, and therein lies useful pointers for policy makers, says Wharton real estate professor Jessie Handbury. A recent research paper by Handbury and her co-authors breaks new ground in its data scale and in studying a larger set of drivers than earlier studies. The research covered grocery purchases made by over 100,000 households in 52 U.S. markets between 2006 and 2011. The chief takeaways are to explore ways of persuading households that are lower on the socioeconomic scale to consider buying healthier foods, she adds.

The research paper is titled “What Drives Nutritional Disparities? Retail Access and Food Purchases Across the Socioeconomic Spectrum,” and was published in April by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Handbury’s co-authors are Ilya Rahkovsky, an economist at the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Molly Schnell, a doctoral student at Princeton University.

Handbury recently discussed her research with Knowledge@Wharton. More:

Published in: Healthcare
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