Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-78) 40 pp

June 2011

Geographic Differences in the Relative Price of Healthy Foods

Although healthy foods can be affordable, if less healthy foods are cheaper, individuals may have an economic incentive to consume a less healthful diet. Using the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database, we explore whether a select set of healthy foods (whole grains, dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, whole fruit, skim and 1% milk, fruit juice, and bottled water) are more expensive than less healthy alternatives. We find that not all healthy foods are more expensive than less healthy alternatives; skim and 1% milk are less expensive than whole and 2% milk and bottled water is generally less expensive than carbonated nonalcoholic drinks. We also find considerable geographic variation in the relative price of healthy foods. This price variation may contribute to geographic variation in diet and health outcomes.

Keywords: Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database (QFAHPD), healthy food, price, geographic variation

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