Census Tract-Level Disparities: Examining Food Swamps and Food Deserts

By Lucy D'Agostino McGowan, Alice Toll in Contributed Speed (Oral + Poster) Presentation

August 12, 2015


Examining disparities in resources on the census tract-level is currently a public health priority. The Modified Retail Food Environment Index (mRFEI), provided by the CDC, incorporates two food environment metrics, 'food deserts', areas with no access to healthy foods, and 'food swamps', areas in which the quantity of unhealthy food options overwhelm healthy ones. We assess the association between the census tract racial make-up and food environment. Multiple logistic regression models are fit, controlling for census-tract level covariates from 2008-2012 ACS estimates, as well as state. Percent black is significantly associated with food swamps, with an absolute increase of 14.4 percent black living in food swamps (p< 0.01). Percent Hispanic is associated with food swamps, with an absolute increase of 9.1 percent Hispanic living in food swamps (p< 0.01), but inversely related to food deserts (absolute difference -6.8, p< 0.01). After adjustment, all associations remain significant. The strong association between the census tract-level racial make-up and food swamps shown here will allow for targeted interventions to census tracts where these disparities exist.


August 12, 2015


11:35 AM – 12:20 PM


ASA Joint Statistical Meeting 2015