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Essays on Retail and Regional Economics

By David Christopher Vitt


This dissertation is composed of three essays at the intersection of regional economic analysis and industrial organization. In the first chapter, I derive an estimating equation for retail market structure in order to quantify the effects of e-commerce competition on brick and mortar retail establishment and employment counts. Using a multilevel regression specification, I find that (i) e-commerce establishment count exposure results show heterogeneity in the sign of the effects across the retail sectors represented in the data (ii) the magnitude of the e-commerce exposure effect is also heterogeneous across retail sectors (iii) the heterogeneity is not purely random and correlates highly with retail industrial characteristics like the labor share of receipts and profit margins, (iv) the e-commerce exposure is passed through to intensive margins like employment. The second essay turns to a regional focus, where I develop a multilevel difference-in-difference approach to estimate the causal effects of discontinued Shuttle launches on the industry and labor markets of Florida\u27s Space Coast. I find strong evidence for (i) an across industry substitution effect previously unexplored in the regional literature(ii) a spike in unemployment of 17% relative to the estimated counterfactual outcome for the region (iii) a contraction in payroll of nearly 10% of regional GDP in some industries combined with a gain of 7.5% through across industry labor reallocation. In the final essay, I focus on the relationship between the size of retail establishments and the growth of their proximate markets. In accomplishing this, I demonstrate the utility of Department of Defense satellite images of ambient night light activity as a measure of the spatial variation in economic activity, as well as a measure of economic growth. This allowed me to use a dynamic panel regression approach to test the concentrating effect of market growth on retail firms. I find evidence that (i) with an autoregressive coefficient closer to 0 than 1 (alpha=0.23), establishment size is not persistent (ii) firms adjustment contemporaneously to economic growth and discount past growth for hiring decisions (iii) a positive and significant firm size elasticity with respect to spatial variation in economic activity

Topics: economics, industrial organization, retail, retail economics, regional economics, Economics
Publisher: FIU Digital Commons
Year: 2016
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