American Sociological Association

The Market Inscribed Landscape: An Institutional Logic of Food Deserts

Focusing on the institutional logics of the grocery industry, this paper argues that the “neighborhood effects” of a lack of resources provided by organizations to economically disadvantaged areas are moderated by institutional logics. From the 1930s to early 1970s, the grocery industry had a logic of “economies of scale.” A new “mix‐margin” logic developed after the mid‐1970s: using low margins on high‐demand items to gain foot traffic needed to sell high‐margin items. Using company‐specific store location data (from 1970 to 1983), this paper analyzes whether differences in company philosophy affect their presence in economically disadvantaged zip codes. Results show that supermarkets were less likely to locate in economically disadvantaged zip codes when operating under a mix‐margin philosophy. These results indicate a shift to a “mix‐margin” institutional logic corresponded with an exodus from economically disadvantaged areas by the grocery industry after the mid‐1970s.


Jarrett Thibodeaux





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