This study used direct field observations with interior assessments of outlets to validate food store and restaurant data from two commercial business lists conditional on classification of outlet type, including supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, full-service restaurants and fast food restaurants. The study used a stratified random sample that included 274 urban census tracts across 9 counties from the Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and 46 suburban and 61 rural census tracts across 13 counties from a 50-mile buffer surrounding the MSA. Results showed that agreement between the field observations and the commercial business lists for the food store and restaurant outlets was generally moderate (ranging from fair to good). However, when the listed data were validated based on an exact classification match, agreement was only fair (ranging from poor to moderate) and, in particular, poor for fast food restaurants. The study also found that agreement levels for some outlet types differed by tract characteristics. Commercial databases must be used with caution as substitutes for on the ground data collection.
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