Food Choice Research

Food Store Choices of Poor Households: A Discrete Choice Analysis of the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS)

(American Journal of Agricultural Economics, with Sofia B. Villas-Boas)

Abstract: Policymakers are pursuing initiatives to increase food access for low-income households. However, due in part to previous data deficiencies, there is still little evidence supporting the assumption that improved food store access will alter dietary habits, especially for the poorest of U.S. households. This article uses the new National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to estimate consumer food outlet choices as a function of outlet type and household attributes in a multinomial mixed logit. In particular, we allow for the composition of the local retail food environment to play a role in explaining household store choice decisions and food acquisition patterns. We find that (1) households are willing to pay more per week in distance traveled to shop at Superstores, Supermarkets, and Fast Food outlets than at Farmers Markets and smaller Grocery Stores, and (2) willingness to pay is heterogeneous across income group, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation, and other household and food environment characteristics. Our results imply that policymakers should consider incentivizing the building of certain outlet types over others, and that Healthy Food Financing Initiatives should be designed to fit the sociodemographic composition of each identified low-income, low-access area in question.

Soda Wars: Effect of Soda Tax Election on University Soda Purchases

(Economic Inquiry, with Scott Kaplan, Sofia B. Villas-Boas, and Kevin Jung, preprint)

Abstract: We examine how soda sales changed due to the campaign attention and election outcome of a local excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Using panel data of beverage sales from university retailers in Berkeley, California, we estimate that soda purchases relative to control beverages significantly dropped immediately after the election, months before the tax was implemented in the city of Berkeley or on campus. Supplemental scanner data from off-campus retailers reveal this result is not unique to the university setting. Our findings suggest soda tax media coverage and election outcomes can have larger effects on purchasing behavior than the tax itself.

Willingness to Pay for Low Water Footprint Foods During Drought

(Chapter in NBER book "Understanding Productivity Growth in Agriculture", editor Wolfram Schlenker, with Hannah Krovetz and Sofia B. Villas-Boas) 

Abstract: In the context of recent California drought years, we investigate empirically whether consumers are willing to pay for more efficient water usage in the production of four California agricultural products. We implement an internet survey choice experiment for avocados, almonds, lettuce, and tomatoes to elicit consumer valuation for water efficiency via revealed choices. We estimate a model of consumer choices where a product is defined as a bundle of three attributes: price, production method (conventional or organic), and water usage (average or efficient). Varying the attribute space presented to consumers in the experimental choice design gives us the data variation to estimate a discrete choice model—both conditional Logit specifications and random coefficient mixed Logit specifications. We find consumers have a significant positive marginal utility towards water-efficiency and estimate an average implied willingness to pay (WTP) of about 12 cents per gallon of water saved. Moreover, informing consumers about the drought severity increases the WTP for low water footprint options, but not significantly. We find that there is heterogeneity in the WTP along respondents’ education, race, and also with respect to stated environmental concern. Simulations of removing low water footprint labels from the choice set attributes imply significant consumer surplus losses, especially for the more educated, white, and more environmentally concerned respondents.

Diffusion of Drip Irrigation: The Case of California

(Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, with David Zilberman)

Abstract: This article provides insights to the state of the literature on the economics of drip irrigation adoption and diffusion. Our literature review finds the methodological approaches to study diffusion—conceptual modeling, empirical analysis, and historical narratives—are complementary, yet, historical analyses have been underemphasized. To address this gap, we conduct a historical analysis of the diffusion of drip irrigation in California. Our 45 year narrative highlights that successful adoption of drip to diverse crops and locations required (1) coevolution of the technology and complementary production processes and (2) joint effort by private and public experts at the local level.

Trends in irrigated area (%) by irrigation system category in California. Source: Tindula, Orang, and Snyder (2013).