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The Median Voter and the Median Consumer: Local Private Goods and Residential Sorting

  • Joel Waldfogel

When a product's product provision entails fixed costs, it will be made available only if a sufficient number of people want it. Some products are produced and consumed locally, so that provision requires not only a large group favoring the product but a large number nearby. Just as one has an incentive to sort into community whose median voter shares his preferences for local public goods, product markets may provide an analogous incentive to sort into a community whose consumers tend to share his preferences in private goods. Using zip code level data on chain restaurants and restaurants overall, this paper documents how the mix of locally available restaurants responds to the local mix of consumers, with three findings. First, based on survey data on chain restaurant patronage, restaurant preferences differ substantially by race and education. Second, there is a strong relationship between restaurants and population at the zip code level, suggesting that restaurants%u2019 geographic markets are small. Finally, the mix of locally available chain restaurants is sensitive to the zipcode demographic mix by race and by education. Hence, differentiated product markets provide a benefit -- proximity to preferred restaurants -- to persons in geographic markets whose customers tend to share their preferences.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11972.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Publication status: published as Waldfogel, Joel. “The Median Voter and the Median Consumer: Local Private Goods and Residential Sorting.” Journal of Urban Economics (March 2008).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11972
Note: IO
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  1. Patrick Bayer & Robert McMillan & Kim Rueben, 2004. "An Equilibrium Model of Sorting in an Urban Housing Market," NBER Working Papers 10865, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Edward C. Prescott & Michael Visscher, 1977. "Sequential Location among Firms with Foresight," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 8(2), pages 378-393, Autumn.
  3. Todd Sinai & Joel Waldfogel, 2003. "Geography and the Internet: Is the Internet a Substitute or a Complement for Cities?," NBER Working Papers 10028, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Spence, Michael, 1976. "Product Differentiation and Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 407-14, May.
  5. Bresnahan, Timothy F & Reiss, Peter C, 1990. "Entry in Monopoly Markets," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(4), pages 531-53, October.
  6. Bresnahan, Timothy F & Reiss, Peter C, 1991. "Entry and Competition in Concentrated Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 977-1009, October.
  7. Spence, Michael, 1976. "Product Selection, Fixed Costs, and Monopolistic Competition," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 217-35, June.
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