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Bodegas or Bagel Shops? Neighborhood Differences in Retail & Household Services

Rachel Meltzer and Jenny Schuetz
Social scientists studying the disadvantages of poor urban neighborhoods have focused on the quality of publicly provided amenities. However, the quantity and quality of local private amenities, such as grocery stores and restaurants, can also have important quality of life implications for neighborhood residents. In the current paper, we develop neighborhood-level metrics of "retail access" and analyze how retail services vary across New York City neighborhoods by income and racial composition. We then examine how retail services change over time, particularly in neighborhoods undergoing rapid economic growth. Results indicate that lower-income and minority neighborhoods have fewer retail establishments, smaller average establishments, a higher proportion of "unhealthy" restaurants, and in certain cases, less diversity across retail sub-sectors. In addition, the rate of retail growth between 1998 and 2007 has been particularly fast in neighborhoods that were initially lower-valued and experienced relatively high housing price appreciation compared to the city overall.