The Influence of Local Food Prices on Obesity and Eating Habits during Early Childhood

Taryn Morrissey, American University
Alison Jacknowitz, American University
Katie Vinopal, American University

This study examines how local food prices influence children’s body mass index (BMI), overweight, food insecurity, and food consumption, and whether receipt of public food assistance changes these associations. We link data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), a nationally representative study of children from birth to age five, to local food price data from the ACCRA Cost-of-Living Index (COLI) (~10,450 observations). Results from OLS and within-child fixed effects models indicate that higher-priced fruits and vegetables are associated with higher standardized measures of children’s BMI. Surprisingly, higher-priced fast food is associated with a higher risk of being overweight. Associations between food prices and children’s weight outcomes are stronger among children in households receiving public food assistance. There was no evidence that food prices are associated with children’s food consumption or household-level food insecurity. Implications for policy are discussed.

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Presented in Session 85: Food, Nutrition, and Child Well-Being