Works in Progress

Impact of Dollar Stores on Household Shopping Patterns and Nutrition [pdf] (updated draft in progress)

with Xiao Dong

This paper examines how household shopping trips, food expenditure, and nutrition are impacted by the entry of dollar stores. We use an event study approach with food retailer location data from Nielsen TDLinx and the household food expenditure from the IRI Consumer Panel dataset. We find that when a dollar store enters a household’s zip, households shift food expenditure to dollar stores from other food retail channels, with larger effects for low-income, low-access, and non-metro county households. Households shift food spending away from perishable product groups with limited offerings at the dollar store like dairy and meat, but by a relatively small amount. We find small impacts of dollar store entry on nutrition, particularly for households living in low-access areas. These effects are about 0.03 standard deviations, or about 5% of the nutrition-income gap, and are driven by decreases in dark greens, legumes, protein, and healthy fat and increases in refined grain. This suggests that household store choice could have an important role in food access and nutrition.

Welfare Implications of Increased Retailer Participation in SNAP [pdf]

with Anne Byrne, Xiao Dong, Jessie Handbury, and Katherine Meckel

Governments generally rely on private vendors to distribute in-kind benefits. The types of vendors that participate can affect beneficiaries, local markets, and program costs. We study the effects of a dramatic increase in the number of food stores accepting SNAP benefits during the Great Recession. To do so, we combine several datasets: administrative records on all SNAP stores, information on all food stores in the U.S., a large household purchasing panel, and a panel of retailer transaction records. We find that the new SNAP stores are largely non-grocer stores that carry limited fresh inventory. The increase in store participation resulted in modest declines in distance to SNAP stores among SNAP-eligible households (a proxy for the cost of access). SNAP-eligible households shift a small share of their food expenditures to the new SNAP retailers, while there is no change for non-SNAP households. Despite small effects for SNAP households, participating in SNAP results in important increases in food sales for vendors. They shift their perishable inventory toward staple foods. Our evidence suggests that proposed restrictions on non-grocer participation in SNAP are unlikely to improve nutrition among beneficiaries

School Food Policy Affects Everyone: Retail Responses to the National School Lunch Program [pdf] (updated draft in progress)

with Jessie Handbury and Sarah Moshary

We study the private market response to the National School Lunch Program, documenting economically meaningful spillovers to non-recipients. We focus on the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), an expansion of the lunch program under the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Under the CEP, participating schools offer free lunch to all students. We leverage both the staggered roll-out and eligibility criterion of the CEP, which is limited to schools where at least 40% of students participate in other means-tested welfare programs. We find that local adoption of CEP leads to a 10% decline in grocery sales at large retail chains. Retailers respond with chain-level price adjustments: chains with the most exposure lower prices by 2.5% across all outlets in the years following adoption, so that the program’s welfare benefits propagate spatially. Using a stylized model of grocery demand, we estimate that by 2016 the indirect benefit had reduced grocery costs for the median household by approximately 4.5%.

Using Tags to Vary Benefit Program Application Costs: The Case of SNAP and Food Bank Application Assistance Programs

Household Spillovers from School Policy: The Impact of the Federal School Nutrition Standards on the Healthfulness of Household Grocery Expenditure

This paper investigates whether the federal school nutrition reforms enacted after the passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 had spillover effects onto the healthfulness of student household grocery expenditure. Focusing specifically on the Smart Snacks in Schools regulation and household grocery expenditure on unhealthy snack food, a difference in difference framework is used to compare the relative changes in unhealthy snack expenditure for households in states with and without strong state snack regulations prior to the federal regulation. The results indicate that the federal regulation decreased unhealthy snack expenditure by about 5% after three years for households with a student. This suggests that spillovers from school policy enhance the impact of the policy.

Projects I've Contributed To

Health Care Hotspotting: A Randomized, Controlled Trial

Amy Finkelstein, Annetta Zhou, Sarah Taubman, and Joseph Doyle

New England Journal of Medicine, 2020 382(2): 152-162.