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Center for Policy Research

Working Paper

The Link Between Gentrification, Children’s Egocentric Food Environment, and Obesity

Christopher Rick, Jeehee Han, Spencer Shanholtz, and Amy Ellen Schwartz

C.P.R. Working Paper No. 245, [Revised from January 2022]

July 2022


While advocates argue that gentrification changes the neighborhood food environment critical to children’s diet and health, we have little evidence documenting such changes or the consequences for their health outcomes. Using rich longitudinal, individual-level data on nearly 115,000 New York City children, including egocentric measures of their food environment and BMI, we examine the link between neighborhood demographic change (“gentrification”), children’s access to restaurants and supermarkets, and their weight outcomes. We find that children in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods see increased access to fast food and wait-service restaurants and reduced access to corner stores and supermarkets compared to those in non-gentrifying areas. Boys and girls have higher BMI following gentrification, but only boys are more likely to be obese or overweight. We find public housing moderates the relationship between gentrification and weight, as children living in public housing are less likely to be obese or overweight.

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