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Minding Our Own Business: Local Retail Establishments and the Future of Southern Civic Community

From: Social Forces
Volume 83, Number 4, June 2005
pp. 1309-1328 | 10.1353/sof.2005.0084

Abstract

The civic community perspective focuses on local social and economic institutions that buffer communities from external, often global forces. Important community organizations such as locally oriented business establishments, civic organizations, associations, and churches are emphasized. These critical entities are posited to benefit a community through an enhanced quality of life, more civic engagement by the citizenry, and a strong capacity for local problem-solving. This address argues specifically for the beneficial consequences of locally oriented retail businesses (single-establishment enterprises and local chains). The relative presence of these local firms is shown to be associated in a positive way with small manufacturing establishments, associations, public gathering places ("third places"), social capital, and voter turnout. Negative correlations are presented for the relationships between locally oriented retail businesses and rates of poverty, infant mortality, and crime. Throughout the presentation, concern is expressed that the South lags behind other U.S. regions in employment and wages derived from these locally oriented firms.