The Ghetto Tax: Teenagers Notice Higher Prices Increase On Stop & Shop Items In Low Income Neighborhoods

The Ghetto Tax: Teenagers Notice Higher Prices Increase On Stop & Shop Items In Low Income Neighborhoods

Teenagers from Jamaica Plain conducted a two-month study analyzing price differences at Stop & Shop in different neighborhoods. What they found is both upsetting and unsurprising. 

The Hyde Square Task Force is a Boston-based non-profit organization that aims to support Black and Latino youths. Formed in the 1980s, it is a coalition of leaders and neighbors dedicated to solving violence within the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. 

One member of this organization is 15-year-old Derek Medena. He and four other teenagers from the coalition joined forces to examine the prices of Stop & Shop items, comparing how they differed in lower-income neighborhoods. During their study, they discovered a significant price hike in low-income areas compared to their wealthier counterparts. 

Medena spoke to CBS News Boston about this revelation. “It makes us angry to see that we’re paying more, we’re being ripped off because we live by food stamps,” said the Massachusetts teen. 

The group compared prices from Jamaica Plain to a Stop & Shop in Dedham. The teenagers visited both stores, took photographs and examined prices. They noted an 18% increase in prices at their local Stop and Shop, a drastic difference despite paying for the same quality of products. Produce and items that were on sale were excluded from this study. Following their experiment, the teenagers contacted Stop and Shop to get answers. 

Ken Tanggvik, an organizer from the Hyde Square Task Force, shared their reasoning for reaching out to Stop & Shop.

“We wanted to talk to them about, you know, how you do your pricing? We wanted to understand it, and they responded by saying, ‘We don’t have time to meet with you. Good luck with your project,” he said. 

Though the company’s response was less than forthcoming, WBZ-TV spoke with Stop & Shop Public Relations Manager Caroline Medeiros at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new food pantry at the Dimock Center in Roxbury. 

“We are aware of that and unfortunately can’t provide much of a comment there, but I do want to say how proud we are of our commitment to this community and what we do to nourish the neighborhood here,”  Medeiros said.

Medena shared that the ultimate goal is to speak with Stop & Shop to determine how to decrease food prices in their neighborhood so that they are the same as everywhere else. 

“I would like the prices for them to be equal. So, like, with Dedham and Jamaica Plain, for the prices to be equal. It’s a big ask, but it’s the least you can do,” said Medena. 

Economic experts have been discussing what Medena and his peers have uncovered for years. It is called the ghetto tax, an additional fee that people of low income often have to pay simply for being of low income. In 2006, the Brookings Institute conducted a study of this phenomenon, examining the differences in living while poor compared to the wealthy. One example shared in the study is that drivers from low-income neighborhoods paid $400 more on yearly insurance than those from middle-class neighborhoods, despite insuring the same cars with the same driving records. That is just one of many instances of impoverished Americans paying more than those from wealthier backgrounds.  

While experts have proposed many different ways to rectify the issue, there is still a long way to go, especially as many companies like Stop & Shop lack transparency.

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