Poster Paper: The Link Between Residential Segregation and Disparities in the Food Environment. an Analysis of Metropolitan Areas

Saturday, November 5, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ferzana D. Havewala, University of Texas at Dallas

The local food environment plays an important role in people’s ability to access affordable and nutritious foods. While the literature is abundant on the differential food landscape, the underlying pathways by which residential segregation impacts the food environment have not been examined previously. This paper aims to fill the gap in this area by relating each of the five dimensions of residential segregation with the food environment in all large (minority populations over 10,000) metropolitan areas in the United States.

This paper uses two measures of the food environment– the Retail Food Environment Index a ratio of the numbers of healthy to less healthy food outlets and Food Balance Score – a ratio of the distances to the nearest healthy to less healthy food outlets.  Variance function regression (VFR) is used to simultaneously model the means (between–metropolitan-area differences) and variances (within-metropolitan-area differences), and therefore the net effects of residential segregation on the food environment.

Results show that the retail food environment varies by residential segregation. Metros that are more segregated tend to have fewer healthy food outlets compared to less healthy outlets.   Residents of metros that are more segregated also have larger travel distances to healthy food outlets compared to less healthy options. Further, residential segregation has the effect of reducing variation in both the Retail Food Environment Score and the Food Balance Score.  The effect is especially strong for segregation by income. Areas where the poor or the affluent are segregated from the overall population, tend to have lower average food environment scores and less variation in those scores.

By shedding light on the specific aspects of residential segregation that impact the food environment, this paper fits into both the debate over the consequences of segregation, and the debate over effective food retail zoning and accessibility.