Inequalities in Food Access in Milwaukee County, WI by Rebecca Rate and Dr. Soren Hauge

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Inequalities in Food Access in Milwaukee County, WI by Rebecca Rate and Dr. Soren Hauge




Debate continues over “food deserts”, or disparities in food access, which disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities. This study adds to the quantitative empirical analysis of these disparities, informed by economic theory. Data for neighborhoods of Milwaukee County in 2016 are used to test whether, controlling for other economic factors, there remains a statistically and economically significant difference in access to various types of food retailers among neighborhoods of different racial compositions. The process is modelled on an empirical analysis done in Erie County, New York in 2008, with some modifications. Travel times from retailers to neighborhoods (census block groups) measured in a geographic information system provide counts of retailers accessible to each neighborhood. These are used for estimation of inter-neighborhood inequalities with Gini coefficients and incidence rate ratios with Poisson, negative binomial, zero-inflated Poisson and semi-parametric Poisson regressions. The findings show that there are far fewer large supermarkets accessible to neighborhoods that are predominantly black, compared to those that are predominantly white. By contrast, there are a greater number of smaller grocery stores, by all travel modes -- driving, walking and bicycling. Results are mixed for convenience and variety stores, but the statistically significant results show more convenience and variety stores in neighborhoods that are predominantly black. If further research confirms higher costs and lesser variety of healthy foods at smaller grocery stores, convenience and variety stores, these results will have troubling implications for public health in the context of a metropolitan area with high levels of racial segregation.


Rate, Rebecca
Hauge, Dr. Soren


Senior Showcase Oral presentation


Ripon College


April 23, 2019


The author reserves all rights.




Major: Economics, Business Management
Campbellsport, Wisconsin
BSA 500




Rate, Rebecca and Hauge, Dr. Soren, “Inequalities in Food Access in Milwaukee County, WI by Rebecca Rate and Dr. Soren Hauge,” Senior Showcase Digital Collection, accessed February 22, 2024,

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