Abstract: (Withdrawn) The Role of Location in Estimating Household Food Insecurity in the United States: 2003-2013 (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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595P (Withdrawn) The Role of Location in Estimating Household Food Insecurity in the United States: 2003-2013

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Lauren Toppenberg, MPH, MPAff, PhD Student & Graduate Research Assistant, Columbia University
Background/aim: Billions of dollars are spent each year on addressing food insecurity in the US. Although food insecurity rates have declined since their recent height in 2011, policies and programs designed to alleviate food insecurity have thus far been unable eliminate it completely. Research into how food insecurity differs across individual, household, and geographic characteristics is key to understanding this gap in program goals, with food insecurity by location being an area of research ripe for further investigation. Some work has looked at the role of rural-urban location on food insecurity but the existing body of literature has yet to reach a consensus on what that role is. The majority of this research uses a binary rural-urban variable to evaluate the effect of location, with suburban areas most often categorized as urban. The limited evidence on the effects of these locations designations on food insecurity is mixed, with some studies finding positive effects, some finding negative effects, and others finding null results. This paper aims to extend the body of research on food insecurity and location by examining differences in food insecurity by metro-area designation – as determined by Rural-Urban Continuum Codes (RUCC) – across time.

Methods: I build OLS regression models with fixed effects using pooled data from the 2003 and 2013 Current Population Survey-Food Security Supplement and from the RUCC. The RUCC are a continuum produced by the USDA every ten years using the decennial Census that assigns each US county a code, ranging from 1 (completely urban) to 9 (completely rural). The independent variable, metro-area designations, is constructed using the RUCC and takes on four values: large, medium, small, and non-metro areas. The outcome of interest, food insecurity, is represented by a binary variable, with a value of 1 assigned if a household experienced very low or low food insecurity in the last year and 0 if not. I also include a vector of control variables previously shown to be associated with food insecurity.

Results: The findings of this study suggest a non-linear relationship between food insecurity and metro-area designations. All metro areas experienced higher odds of food insecurity compared to non-metro areas, but households residing in the largest metro areas had lower increased odds of food insecurity (4.5%) than medium and small metro areas (13.9% and 17.3%, respectively). A non-linear relationship persists between metro-area designations and food insecurity persists when disaggregating by year, although the pattern of this relationship changes from 2003 to 2013.

Conclusions/Implications: Differences in the odds of food insecurity across the metro-area designations suggest that using a binary rural-urban definition of location is likely insufficient in understanding the nuanced role of location on food insecurity. The fact that the relationship between metro-area designations is non-linear implies that there are additional factors beyond the population of a metro-area designation that contribute to differences in food insecurity status. Further research is needed to identify what these metro area-specific characteristics might be in order to optimize policies and programs designed to reduce food insecurity going forward.