Do Walmart Supercenters Improve Food Security?

Charles Courtemanche, Art Carden, Xilin Zhou, Murugi Ndirangu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This paper examines the effect that Walmart Supercenters, which lower food prices and expand food availability, have on food insecurity. Data come from the 2001-2012 Current Population Survey Food Security Supplements matched to Walmart Supercenter entry dates and locations. Using instrumental variables models that leverage Walmart's predictable expansion pattern outward from corporate headquarters, we find that closer proximity to a Walmart Supercenter improves household and child food security, as measured by affirmative responses to a food insecurity questionnaire and an indicator for food insecurity. The effects are largest among low-income households and children but are also sizeable for middle-income children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-198
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Economic Perspectives and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was conducted using restricted data from the U.S. Census Bureau, accessed at the Atlanta Census Research Data Center. The authors thank Melissa Banzhaf for help throughout the data application and output disclosure processes. Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Census Bureau. All results have been reviewed to ensure that no confidential information is disclosed. This project was supported with a grant from the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research (UKCPR) through funding by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, contract number AG-3198-B-10-0028. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s) and should not be construed as representing the opinions or policies of the UKCPR or any agency of the federal government. Funds from the Charles Koch Foundation were used to hire Brian Cunningham on Upwork to make the maps. The authors thank Christian Gregory, Craig Gundersen, Wen You, Jim Ziliak, and audiences at the University of Kentucky, University of Illinois, Hope College, Clemson University, University of Georgia, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Atlanta Research Data Center Conference, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Annual Meeting, Southern Economic Association Annual Meeting, and Public Choice Society Annual Meeting for helpful comments, and Amy Fontinelle for proofreading the manuscript. Aaron Atwell, Jessica Brewer, Shelby English, Jonathan Faulks, Andrew Feldewerth, Lauren Hughes, Christian Johnson, Gabi Kim, Devyn Lamon, Lisa G. Mosley, Avery White, and student workers at Samford University and the Department of Nutrition and Health Care Management at Appalachian State University provided crucial assistance with data collection at various stages.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).


  • Wal-Mart
  • Walmart
  • big box stores
  • food insecurity
  • hunger
  • supercenters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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