Going the Distance: Big Data on Resident Access to Everyday Goods
19 Pages Posted: 20 May 2017
Date Written: March 23, 2017
In this report, we measure the distance between consumers’ homes and the merchants at which they shop. Leveraging over 197 million credit and debit card transactions from more than 581 million de-identified customers in 15 cities, we analyzed credit and debit card transactions in Detroit and New York for the second quarter of each year in the 2013-2016 period. We organize our results into five findings. First, in 2016, residents of Detroit and New York made 71.6 percent and 56.8 percent of their transactions outside of their 20-minute neighborhood, respectively. Second, distances between residents and their chosen merchants dropped in both cities between 2013 and 2016. Third, in 2016, the distance between residents and their chosen merchants was longest for low-income residents and shortest for high-income residents in both cities. Fourth, between 2013 and 2016, the distance between residents and their chosen merchants fell for low-income residents in both Detroit and New York. Fifth, between 2013 and 2016, access to necessities like pharmacies, grocery stores, and non-durable providers improved the most. Overall, we explored the time costs of local, commercial activity, and the data revealed that access to retail is a complex issue that can be better addressed by understanding where and how often people actually shop. We find that significant variation in the distance between residents and their chosen merchants exists across product types, which is critical information for local policymakers and other stakeholders.
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