Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Shanna Rose

Rights Information

© 2015 Alexander B. Reeser


PURPOSE: This study is a quantitative analysis of the relationship between obesity and food availability in the United States. A vast amount of literature has been produced examining various food and socioeconomic variables for their effect on obesity rates; however, this is the first research project to use the USDA’s Food Environment Atlas in a nationwide quantitative study.

METHODS: This study uses multivariate statistical analysis to study the effect of 24 variables identified in the 2015 USDA Food Environment Atlas on county-wide obesity rates. The primary regression of concern looks specifically at the effect five food availability variables (grocery stores, specialty food stores, SNAP stores, supercenters, and convenience stores) have on obesity rates.

RESULTS: Grocery store and specialty food store density is negatively correlated to percent countywide obesity, while supercenter and SNAP store density is positively correlated to percent obesity. Convenience store density had virtually no effect on percent obesity. Potentially confounding variables such as density of recreational facilities and farmers’ markets were also negatively correlated with obesity. Additionally, density of fast-food and full-service restaurants were negatively correlated with obesity, while perpetual poverty was positively correlated to percent obesity.

CONCLUSION: The analyses presented in this study suggest that greater availability of grocery stores and specialty food stores may help to curb rising obesity rates. Policy recommendation and considerations based on the results are discussed and explored for their potential utility in addressing the obesity epidemic confronting the United States.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.