Three Economic Issues in Health and/or Space

2019-01-17T01:47:31Z (GMT) by Jeffrey S. Young
This dissertation covers three separate topics. The first and second are related, the second and third are related, the first and third share no commonalities. Essay number one was previously investigated and therefore builds off the previous work to apply the methods and framework to a recent issue facing agriculture in the US. Essay number two is purely exploratory and offers methodological insights for the purpose of tracking health patterns at a regional level, as well as investigating new hypotheses regarding food and health. Essay number three contains two parts: one original, the second building off previous work and more rigorously investigating a widely discussed economic question.
The first essay addresses the spatial variation in land value growth in the Corn Belt. It is well established that land values in remote regions (a result of higher transport costs) are more vulnerable to volatility and thus incur risk for landowners. Two historical examples of this are the Great Depression and the 1980s Farm Financial Crisis. The study finds that the Staggers Act may have contributed to lower transport costs in the remote parts of the Corn Belt enough to stabilize land values a little. Similarly, the Ethanol Boom stabilized land values by way of bringing the market to farmers in these regions, thereby lowering their transport costs.
The second essay is an ecological study investigating links between food purchasing and health outcomes at a market level. Attention is given to links established at an individual level from findings in longitudinal and cohort studies, as well as meta-analyses and cross-sectional studies. The results indicate that many of these previously investigated diet-disease links appear in food purchasing patterns by region, and that regional food marketing data can be useful for nutritional epidemiological studies – within the limitations of an ecological study.
The third essay tests the hypothesis of whether healthy eating is necessarily more expensive. If so, then the lack of compliance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) common in low-income adults comes as no surprise. If not, then alternative explanations must be offered and validated. A review of the literature finds that studies purporting the notion that healthy foods are more costly tend to use flawed cost metrics, and that there is a growing body of dissenting literature. Two alternative theories are proposed and tested. The findings generally support the theory in both cases. Thus, the study recommends that emphasis be placed on measures intended to improve diets through other avenues than cost.