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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: 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.

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  • (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.

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      I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
      • (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.

        --
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    • (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.

      --
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    • (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.