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Center for Policy Research

Working Paper

Examining 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

January 2022

Amy Ellen Schwartz

Amy Ellen Schwartz


Abstract

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”) and 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 deleterious effect of gentrification on children’s weight outcomes, possibly due to different changes to the food environment.

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