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Abstract

A growing body of work documents the influence of neighborhood environments on child health and well-being. Food insecurity is likely linked to neighborhood characteristics via mechanisms of social disadvantage, including access to and availability of healthy foods and the social cohesion of neighbors. In this paper, we utilize restricted, geo-coded data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which allows us to link individual children with their neighborhood's census characteristics, to assess how the neighborhoods of food secure and food insecure children differ at both the kindergarten level and in third grade. The average food insecure child lives in a neighborhood with a higher proportion of black and Hispanic residents, a higher proportion of residents living in poverty, and a higher proportion of foreign-born and linguistically isolated residents. After accounting for individual and household-level characteristics, children living in neighborhoods with a high proportion of Hispanic and foreign-born residents have a significantly increased risk of food insecurity compared to children living in neighborhoods which are predominantly white and have high socioeconomic status. We argue that interventions which take neighborhood context into account may be most efficacious for curbing child food insecurity.

Key Take Away Points

  • Neighborhood demographic characteristics are associated with child food insecurity.
  • Children living in neighborhoods characterized by a high proportion of Hispanic, foreign-born, and linguistically isolated residents are most at risk of food insecurity.
  • The neighborhood environments of children who are food insecure in kindergarten and in third grade are considerably more disadvantaged than those who are food secure at both time points.

Author Biography

Rachel Tolbert Kimbro is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rice University and the Director of the Urban Health Program at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

Justin T. Denney is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rice University and the Associate Director of the Urban Health Program at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

Sarita Panchang is a post-baccalaureate fellow in the Department of Sociology at Rice University.

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the statistical assistance of Rose Medeiros.