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Culinary Deserts, Gastronomic Oases: A Classification of US Cities

Zachary Paul Neal
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Zachary Paul Neal: Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 West Harrison Street, Chicago, Illinois 60607, USA, zneal2@uic.edu

Urban Studies, 2006, vol. 43, issue 1, 1-21

Abstract: This paper explores the role of restaurants, as consumption spaces, in defining the consumptional identity of 243 American cities. Specifically, it is asked whether, and how, US cities can be classified on the basis of the local prevalence of specific types of restaurants-are some cities culinary deserts, while others are gastronomic oases? A two-stage cluster analysis reveals four distinct city types, which fall along two intersecting dimensions: a quantitative dimension of restaurant availability and a qualitative cultural dimension. These four city types are characterised and connected to the existing literature on consumption spaces, with particular attention to a strong parallel between these city types and the communities discussed by Richard Florida. Several directions for future research using the city classification as a conceptual framework are offered. Additionally, these analyses involve the development and application of a new method of measuring a city's number of consumption spaces, which is theoretically superior to traditional per capita measures and which is described in a methodological appendix.

Date: 2006
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