The Geography of Economic Impact
When we buy stuff, we make some kind of an impact on the economy in the places where we buy them. Granted, the positive economic impact of chain stores is arguably less than that of independent businesses.
But at least the locality does get sales tax revenues which can be quite substantial. And the rate of sales tax varies substantially, depending on what you are buying and where you are buying it.
For example, in the City of St. Louis, sales tax rates are as follows:
Prescription drugs: 0.000% (tax-exempt)
College textbooks sold at a college bookstore: 3.391%
Grocery items: 4.516%
General merchandise: 7.616%
(including motor vehicles purchased by city residents anywhere in Missouri)
Prepared food and non-alcoholic beverages sold at a restaurant: 9.116%
(Total of the general sales tax rate plus the 1.5% gross receipts tax on restaurants levied by the Central Business Index).
Anyway, I also thought it would be fun to tally up my purchases for the past couple months (since right after Christmas), and see where I bought stuff. I started by downloaded a tab-delimited file from my bank account online.
I won't get into specifics about how much I spent or at what particular stores, but I can show it at the ZIP code level.
ZIP Codes in the City of St. Louis where I spent money, and what percentage of my total purchases were in that ZIP code:
63139 less than 1%
ZIP Codes in St. Louis County where I spent money, and what percentage of my total purchases were in that ZIP code:
63105 less than 1%
63117 less than 1%
63134 less than 1%
So, not surprisingly, I spent a large percentage of my money in South St. Louis City. 60%, in fact, between 63118 (where I live) and 63116 (where several grocery stores, pharmacies, and a pet supply store are located). Some spending happened in Southwest City and the central corridor, but not as much as I'd thought.
Very little money went outside the city limits, and all of it went to inner-ring suburbs in St. Louis County. Of that, most was in North County and University City. Very little was in the massive retailing complexes near I-170 and Highway 40.
Unfortunately, during this time period I have not spent a single dime in North St. Louis City nor the Metro East.
Somehow I don't think my spending patterns and habits are very representative of purchasing power in the St. Louis region. More likely, they reflect that I just don't have much reason to go out past I-170 for anything; and my heavy reliance on public transit.