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posted by hubie on Monday March 25, @03:49AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

The next time you're on a walk, consider stopping by that restaurant you've never been to or the local store you keep meaning to check out. They just might be the key to a vibrant local economy, according to a new study.

In a surprise finding based on anonymized cell phone mobility records, infrequent trips to places like restaurants and sports facilities—not the everyday office visit or school drop-off—accounted for the majority of differences in economic outcomes between neighborhoods.

The lesson for urban planners and individuals, researchers said, is to embrace the unusual.

[...] The activities with the strongest predictive power included French and New American restaurants, golf courses, hockey rinks, soccer games, and bagel shops. These kinds of activities accounted for just 2% of trips but explained more than 50% of the variation in economic outcomes between neighborhoods. Wang and his collaborators didn't initially expect these leisure activities to be so tied to local economic fortunes.

[...] "Those irregular and infrequent activities are correlated with explorative behavior, the tendency of some groups to seek out opportunities, connect with different people, and create new businesses," said Esteban Moro, Ph.D., a professor at Northeastern University, who co-led the study. "Looking at those infrequent activities, we are directly looking at current and potential economic opportunities in the future."

[...] What was most surprising was that trips to the office—where we earn our money—were not strongly associated with income or property values. Rather, it's how we spend our free time that drives the economic vibrancy of cities.

Journal Reference:
Wang, S., Zheng, Y., Wang, G. et al. Infrequent activities predict economic outcomes in major American cities. Nat Cities (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s44284-024-00051-7


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  • (Score: 4, Funny) by krishnoid on Monday March 25, @03:57AM (2 children)

    by krishnoid (1156) on Monday March 25, @03:57AM (#1350211)

    "Hi, I always saw this place on my evening strolls and thought I'd stop in and check it out."

    "Um, do you want something to eat? We're just sitting down to dinner. You know, like almost everyone else in this extensive housing tract, or, God forbid, gated community. That would totally not be weird."

    "Depends, what's the special?"

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 25, @02:59PM (1 child)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 25, @02:59PM (#1350267)

      There was a cigar bar one block off of Lincoln Road mall in Miami Beach (1990s), I was walking by one day, the door was open, I went inside and saw the owner/bartender sitting down to lunch. I asked: "Are you open for lunch?" He said: "Sure, come on in... the menu is limited, today's lunch is - basically whatever he was having." I said "Great." sat down, he brought me the sandwich and I think I had a beer, not sure. We talked a little, I ate, he rang up a bill at fair local market price and I thanked him and paid.

      About a week later I repeated the trip / lunch experience - we talked a little more in-depth, but same thing: good sandwich, good beer, good price.

      The next week I came by and the door was locked. I noticed there were no hours posted for lunch, oh well - Lincoln Road mall, lots of choices.

      The week after that I came by again, this time he was just cleaning up, I asked: "You're not really open for lunch, are you?" "No, but I'll make you a sandwich and serve you a beer if you like..."

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by crafoo on Monday March 25, @08:44AM (3 children)

    by crafoo (6639) on Monday March 25, @08:44AM (#1350234)

    so they are in favor of strong policing and stop-and-frisk. no one is going for a stroll when homeless are shitting in the streets and the sidewalks are full of tents. or fresh-releases from central american prison are wandering around looking for cars to break into.

    yeah. when your community is trash and full of trash everyone just goes to work and back to home, saving money to escape.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 25, @03:14PM (2 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 25, @03:14PM (#1350268)

      And here we have an example of the classic Faux News consumer of hate, fear and outrage:

      >no one is going for a stroll when homeless are shitting in the streets and the sidewalks are full of tents. or fresh-releases from central american prison are wandering around looking for cars to break into.

      If you weren't concealed carrying a loaded Glock, you might be a little more at-ease with your fellow human beings in the urban cores and elsewhere.

      Meanwhile, the article is about exploration in diverse neighborhoods and the economic strength that exploration brings to the explored areas.

      In our current city of more than 1 million residents, our homeless tend to cluster downtown around the areas where they receive the best/most services, and yes: the least police harassment. They do scatter throughout the greater metro area begging at stoplights, but for the most part you won't find homeless encampments in the clusters of restaurant / nightlife areas.

      In our previous city of a bit less than 150K residents, many homeless were found right next door to one of the downtown restaurant / nightlife areas - coincidentally my work offices were upstairs from the restaurants there for several years. In four years, over 1000 working days, I believe I was panhandled in the parking lot less than six times - and I said no, and they politely moved on every single time. Around there a surprising number of transient homeless chose to camp out in the woods instead of dealing with the less predictable experience of services / harassment (by ordinary citizens more than police) in the city center.

      >fresh-releases from central american prison are wandering around looking for cars to break into.

      Evidence? As far as I know, in the US you've got better odds of winning the pick-6 state lottery than of getting your car broken into by a fresh-release ex-con illegal alien.

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Monday March 25, @11:49PM (1 child)

        by darkfeline (1030) on Monday March 25, @11:49PM (#1350348) Homepage

        > If you weren't concealed carrying a loaded Glock, you might be a little more at-ease with your fellow human beings in the urban cores and elsewhere.

        What a befuddling take. People are uneasy because they can't conceal carry (that is, they cannot defend themselves), and are more at ease when they carry. See Georgia's recent law that holds facilities accountable for any crimes that happen if they ban guns (that is, they ban people from defending themselves and thus take on that responsibility).

        --
        Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday March 26, @03:00AM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday March 26, @03:00AM (#1350370)

          >People are uneasy because they can't conceal carry (that is, they cannot defend themselves), and are more at ease when they carry.

          I know people who carry, I know people who don't carry.

          To a one, everyone I know who carries is wound tight and constantly considering whether or not now is the moment for them to end another human being's life.

          The people I know who don't carry rarely worry about it. Correlation or causation? Impossible to say.

          One "carrier" in particular who I knew for 35 years has a not-uncommon story: car accident at 40, chronic pain, alcoholism, addiction to opioids, actually "Baker Acted" (that's Florida-ese for arrested due to mental instability, danger to self or others) once spending two horrifying weeks fighting against the mental ward staff resulting in serious injury to himself (and "another day at the office" for the staff.) Luckily for the general population, he quit carrying his pistol around age 68 because "it is just too heavy" and replaced it with a tactical knife for his personal protection. Number of times this man was actually assaulted or even seriously threatened in his life? Zero.

          Then there were our elderly neighbors whose home was invaded in the middle of the day, the assailant beat 'em a little, tied 'em up then took their guns before driving off in their car... Number of times their "self protection" firearms ever protected them in their lifetime? Zero.

          --
          🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by linuxrocks123 on Monday March 25, @10:05AM (8 children)

    by linuxrocks123 (2557) on Monday March 25, @10:05AM (#1350238) Journal

    I think it's far more likely that rich neighborhoods have more restaurants, golf courses, and bagel shops than that building restaurants, golf courses, and bagel shops will make your neighborhood rich. This study is BS.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday March 25, @11:25AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 25, @11:25AM (#1350245) Journal
      What in the world are you talking about? Obviously we need more bagel eating on the golf course to boost the local economy. This keen insight should help inner city neighborhoods a lot!
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Unixnut on Monday March 25, @12:47PM (6 children)

      by Unixnut (5779) on Monday March 25, @12:47PM (#1350251)

      Yes I was going to say something similar. "Exploration" type economic activity relies on people having two things:

      (1) Disposable income
      (2) Time to saunter about and explore new things.

      In my experience nowadays those luxuries are mostly for the well off.

      Most working people don't have the time for such activity (assuming they have the disposable income). They usually have so little time that their day is planned in some kind of routine that gets all the tasks done that they need to. It doesn't give much time to just amble around and see what new leisure activities are about.

      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by janrinok on Monday March 25, @01:05PM (2 children)

        by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 25, @01:05PM (#1350253) Journal

        These comments paint a very gloomy picture of life in the USA. I hadn't realised that zoning rules - which don't exist anywhere else as far as I know - have caused the creation of a type of society which I would not want to live in.

        I don't think that I have ever lived in a place where it was not possible to walk out of one's home and find restaurants and shops within a reasonable distance. One of my current pleasures is to visit one of my local restaurants, have a good meal and a glass or two of wine, and then walk home again at the end of the evening. I have lived in at least 5 different countries and been able to do the same thing in each of them, yet people say that I currently live in a remote rural area.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Unixnut on Monday March 25, @01:21PM

          by Unixnut (5779) on Monday March 25, @01:21PM (#1350254)

          Fair enough, I guess to clarify my experience is based on the urban UK rather than the USA.

          In that case it is not so much zoning rules as much as lack of time, stress of life and usually having all money going to pay living costs or repaying debt that prevents people from indulging in much leisure activity. Southern Europe does however have the "Cafe culture" as they call it here, where people of all walks of life with spend time sitting in cafe's, wandering around and trying new things. The media makes a point of how "unproductive" they are, which just means they have more free time to do things rather than work.

          I have in the past lived out in "rural" areas as well, and I prefer it because there is a slower pace of life, and more free time to enjoy leisure activities, be it a nice meal, a drink at a local cafe or just to amble about in nature (not to mention all the space!). I am back in an urban jungle for the moment, and I do miss it (especially the open space!).

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 25, @03:32PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 25, @03:32PM (#1350274)

          In the U.S. zoning rules are fairly heterogeneous... there is a lot of "Residential only" zoning that demands car ownership just to practically live in the neighborhoods which tend to be under or un-served by public transportation.

          There are also lots of urban, and some suburban, areas trying lots of variations on mixed-use.

          When you get out of "blue state" high density, you start running into a lot of "build whatever the hell you want" zoning, with predictably unpredictable results.

          --
          🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 25, @03:44PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 25, @03:44PM (#1350277)

        There's a bit of human nature wrapped up in this, part of the "new restaurant does better than established restaurant" phenomena.

        People will flock to something new to "try it out," at the expense of their established habits. If the new thing is terrible, they'll abandon it and go back to their previous patterns, but if the new thing is (at least perceived as) good, then the old things will be losing business to it.

        In the suburban commuter community I grew up in, a new restaurant opening anywhere within 10 miles would be clearly felt by the existing restaurants, like a 90% drop in customers for a couple of weeks if the target demographic was anywhere close.

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 2) by cereal_burpist on Tuesday March 26, @04:16AM (1 child)

        by cereal_burpist (35552) on Tuesday March 26, @04:16AM (#1350382)

        They have time to vegetate in front of the TV or Netflix for a few hours every evening. So I think it's more of a time-management and/or lifestyle-choices issue.

        • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Tuesday March 26, @01:24PM

          by Unixnut (5779) on Tuesday March 26, @01:24PM (#1350407)

          Well, that is why there are two reasons in my original post. There are people with time but not the disposable income for going around trying new places. Again I am not sure how it is in the USA but on this side of the pond there are ~70 free TV channels available, meaning that watching TV is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment available.

          Those with time and disposable income can indulge in "exploration", and if out of this group there are those who like to sit and vegetate in front of the TV then I agree that is a lifestyle choice, as they have the means to do other things.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by gznork26 on Monday March 25, @11:57AM (5 children)

    by gznork26 (1159) on Monday March 25, @11:57AM (#1350249) Homepage Journal

    The implication in their conclusion is that the existence of bagel shops, restaurants and so forth in places where you can casually drop in makes a community more vibrant. This scenario is forbidden by single-use zoning rules which separate residential communities from commercial uses such as those shops. The point of changing those rules in order to encourage walkable cities is to allow the creation of such places. That's how communities developed naturally before zoning happened after WWII and driving became mandatory. Infrastructure such as streets are only covered by property and sales tax revenues in places where mixed use exists; single use residential areas are a drain on city coffers and are not sustainable in the long run.

    The single-use built world that so many people only live in is a problem. But we can only do something about it is we speak and think about it directly.

    --
    Khipu were Turing complete.
    • (Score: 2) by Rich on Monday March 25, @12:47PM (2 children)

      by Rich (945) on Monday March 25, @12:47PM (#1350250) Journal

      Aside from that "Infrequent activities predict economic outcomes in major American cities." should rather be "Economic outcomes predict infrequent activities in major American cities.", it may be that commercial activities in residential areas might not be feasible anymore, regardless of zoning laws.

      Smaller towns used to have individual shops catering to daily needs along their main roads, which are mostly gone now, downtown areas used to have large department stores, which are in the process of disappearing. Even the malls which took their business see hard times now against online competition. Note how this progress comes with increased mobility that connects optimized specialized sector offers to the customers. This optimizing not only means cost, but also handling the ever increasing complexity of offerings. from the bazillions of non-standardized spare parts to exotic food ingredients.

      So, dropping zoning laws is easy, the real task at hand is making small local businesses viable again. (Whereever there are mixed zones around here, most of the old shop rooms go to good-for-nothing enterprises of non-natives that mostly reek of money laundries.)

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 25, @03:26PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 25, @03:26PM (#1350272)

        We live in a "commercially overbuilt" city - strip mall square footage is cheap. The (massive) K-mart that went out of business 8 years ago still stands vacant, and we've got a over 1 million square feet in a 1.4 million square foot shopping mall standing vacant as well - although the 4 million square feet of strip malls within a mile of it are mostly doing well.

        It's great for restaurant startups, game cafes, etc. but it also frequently gets filled with vape shops, nail salons, comic shops, dollar trees, tattoo parlors and other super low-rent indicators - when it's not altogether empty.

        With housing the way it is, they really should consider converting some of those old vacant shopping spaces to "Loft apartments" - it would become a very walkable neighborhood for people who don't mind living in an ex-Baby Gap.

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 25, @04:12PM

        by VLM (445) on Monday March 25, @04:12PM (#1350285)

        the real task at hand is making small local businesses viable again

        Retail is dead and stacking the cards against it by eliminating all possible economies of scale by focusing on going tiny is very unlikely to be successful. It's like agonizing about how to bring back farriers, tailors, and blacksmiths, and suggesting maybe the trick is to demand really small blacksmiths shops instead of fewer larger blacksmiths shops. They aren't coming back, that's what's happening.

        There's also the strange assumption that the only possible "small local businesses" is direct to hyperconsumer in-person retail, which has historically always had a HUGE failure rate so it was traditionally never really viable anyway. The successful "small local businesses" provide services, work in a trade, ultra-small scale manufacturing, hyper niche small scale manufacturing and manufacturing support, etc.

        Drive around town and look at the plots of land that make piles of money for a career vs minimum wage or less for a couple years before going out of business, then decide what kind of jobs your city needs more. My suburb has the easy to despise minimum wage froyo-fad retail that goes out of business every two years at most, but we also have multiple full industrial parks full of medium-term profitable small businesses. Better off with a city full of trademen shops (electricans plumbers welders, etc) than a city full of froyo store cashiers.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 25, @03:20PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 25, @03:20PM (#1350269)

      Until the recent run-up in house prices, I believe the average US citizen pays more for the construction and maintenance of roads (remember to count county, state and federal tax contributions) than they do for their home or rental dwelling. I last ran the numbers on that around 2012 and it came up about 55/45 roads vs housing.

      Just recently, driving on a six lane 10 mile repaving project, I was reflecting on how 5000 square feet of asphalt 2" thick costs $15K installed, but here we have a road maintenance program installing roughly 1000x that much asphalt, possibly even thicker, on a single road in the city.

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 25, @03:45PM

      by VLM (445) on Monday March 25, @03:45PM (#1350278)

      single use residential areas are a drain on city coffers and are not sustainable in the long run

      Why is it repeatedly across the country so incredibly successful with such high property values and intense purchasing demand, compared to the small fraction of land that's mostly empty for mixed-use developments? Most responses I've seen historically, devolve into conspiracy theory and devoutly stated quasi-religious belief.

      Why isn't mixed use successful, beyond a very small percentage of land use, is a better question.

      Simply repeating that it's better financially and has a better lifestyle apparently does not make people it, but they've been beating that drum for several generations now, always unsuccessfully.

      There is also a problem with scale. Let's say the actual market demand is 2% mixed use and 98% single use. I do believe and agree that if 1% of the local real estate market is mixed use, developers do need to explode growth by 100% to meet the market need. The 'problem' is even after that 100% growth, 98% of the population still will not want to live there, and economic bubble people being the bubble-people trend followers they are, they will almost certainly build 4% mixed use and 96% single use developments, leading to the entire mixed use "industry" collapsing because the financial don't work out when they are 50% empty and unsold. Thats where we are where I live, we have a massive oversupply of mixed use that's empty and failing and going back to the banks.

      You can build it, but they won't come, and even if they do come, there aren't that many of them. Its like the ultraluxury condo problem where every developer thinks they're going to be the "one" who sells the $2M condo to the local CEOs. The problem is, followers being followers, they're all trying to sell to the local CEOs, so luxury condos are like 75% vacant in the closest major downtown area. Everyone wants to sell to those guys and milk those cash cows, but there aren't enough cash cows to go around, so they're all going out of business together.

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 25, @01:39PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 25, @01:39PM (#1350255)

    Why bother adventuring / exploring?

    Everything I want / need - local or otherwise - can be wished for online from my browser.

    Then the box trucks bring it to me - often the same day.

    It's the wave of the future.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 25, @02:33PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 25, @02:33PM (#1350265)

      The delivery drones can do the explorin'.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Monday March 25, @03:22PM

    by VLM (445) on Monday March 25, @03:22PM (#1350271)

    The real story is in the assumptions.

    The story uses the V-word, vibrant. To most of the population, vibrant has come to mean ridiculously overpriced mass-produced consumer culture slop mixed with strict class divisions between the servant class and the served class; needless to say everyone pretends we are all going to be in the minor-nobility class not in the servant class, but the numbers do not match up; its mostly about making poor puppets dance to the strings being pulled for entertainment purposes.

    Very many people do not see it as an improvement in quality of life to pay triple the cost to have some poverty-stricken person open a bottle of beer purchased from the same Costco I shop in a subserviant manner. That's what "vibrant" means. The whole experience feels gross to almost everyone, which is why it's not very popular and most people who can afford it, move away from it.

    So in summary, vibrant is pretty gross and most people want to live far away from the bagel shop not nearby it.

    Vibrant is like rats, people don't live in the city because they want to live around rats, the rats live in the city because the people are there. That's why there's an entire business model around buying a box of Costco bagels at $1/each and selling them at a bagel shop for $10/each. Thats what vibrant is all about.

  • (Score: 2) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Monday March 25, @03:27PM (2 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Monday March 25, @03:27PM (#1350273)

    but I never buy shit I don't need on a whim.

    I guess I'm not vibrating the local economy...

    • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Monday March 25, @03:41PM

      by acid andy (1683) on Monday March 25, @03:41PM (#1350275) Homepage Journal

      No, you're doing it right. Consumerism is destroying the planet.

      --
      If a cat has kittens, does a rat have rittens, a bat bittens and a mat mittens?
    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 25, @03:53PM

      by VLM (445) on Monday March 25, @03:53PM (#1350280)

      The irony is the $1 I spent on gas to drive out to the local hiking trail causes more economic growth AND less environmental degradation than buying $20 of overpriced coffee and bagels at the vibrant local shop.

      But a healthy hike in the woods on the trail is doubleplusungood because it's not mindless consumerism which is inherently unquestionably always good, therefore I should make up for it by buying $19 of collectible bobble heads at the vibrant bobble head shop on the way home. I chose not to.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by PiMuNu on Monday March 25, @05:08PM

    by PiMuNu (3823) on Monday March 25, @05:08PM (#1350298)

    Just to counter the cynical SN crowd - there is a counter example which is the Bohemian districts that sometimes spring up. In the UK, it's young and poor people in temporary housing ("squatters" to use the UK jargon) selling second hand stuff/small food stalls in local shops/markets; usually later to get turned into a more formalised high street district. Thinking Camden Town or Bethnal Green in London...

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Tork on Monday March 25, @06:29PM

    by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 25, @06:29PM (#1350306)

    What was most surprising was that trips to the office—where we earn our money—were not strongly associated with income or property values. Rather, it's how we spend our free time that drives the economic vibrancy of cities.

    Gee... it's almost like I need to get away from work for a bit to spend money. What a revelation. 🙄

    --
    🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
  • (Score: 2) by Hartree on Wednesday March 27, @12:57AM

    by Hartree (195) on Wednesday March 27, @12:57AM (#1350511)

    I think this research may well tell more about the naive assumptions of the researchers than the actual causes of economic prosperity.

    Quick! What percentage of blighted neighborhoods have "New American" or French cuisine in large amounts? Are the problems of those communities due to the lack of those kinds of restaurants?

    Maybe, just maybe, they don't have those things at least partly due to being economically blighted communities rather than vice versa. Though personally, my tastes run more to a diner food than either of those.

    Golf courses? It's hard to find a more hated symbol of classism. At least for some parts of the chattering classes. (I don't even golf, so I'd hardly be defending them due to participating)

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