Dollar stores and food deserts

Lauren Chenarides, Clare Cho, Rodolfo M. Nayga, Michael R. Thomsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between dollar store expansion and food access. We begin by documenting the growth of dollar stores over time and comparing dollar store expansion between areas with and without poor food access. Using a time-varying measure of food accessibility, we identify areas with persistent food access challenges, where supermarket and large grocery stores have been absent for the entire study period (2000–2017), and track dollar store expansion into these areas. We use a combination of geocoded food retail establishments from Nielsen's TDLinx dataset to identify the precise location and years of entry for dollar stores and create yearly measures of food accessibility. We find that dollar stores are most prevalent in non-metro areas, regardless of food access status. We find that both the presence and entry of dollar stores are not more likely to be associated with areas categorized as “low-income and low-access”; however, we do find evidence that once a dollar store enters a food desert, that area is more likely to remain without access to a supermarket. Our results indicate that dollar stores are similar to other profit-seeking food retailers in that they are more likely to locate in areas where supermarkets exist and competition is high, suggesting that dollar stores are becoming key players within the food retailing environment. Yet, unlike traditional retail formats, dollar stores could be filling a gap in food access in places where no other food retailer will enter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102497
JournalApplied Geography
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Dispersal policy
  • Dollar stores
  • Food access
  • Food deserts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Environmental Science
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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