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Empty shops in Australian regional towns as an index of rural wellbeing

  • Year: 2011
  • Author: Burns, Edgar Alan; Willis, Evan
  • Journal Name: Rural Society
  • Journal Number: Vol. 21, No. 1
  • Country: Australia

The regional catchment area of an Australian regional university city provided the basis for an exploratory research project generating an index of wellbeing of rural towns. The project used the residential locations of first-year sociology students to investigate several dozen rural town communities each year in three successive years. This empirically established the number and proportion of empty shops across a sweep of rural towns. Common patterns and differences between towns in the proportion of empty shops provided points of reflection and analysis. Because the research had a pedagogical as well as an investigative purpose, a space was opened up to debate the adequacy of the index to measure the complex realities of rural wellbeing, balancing the project's limitations with it value as a 'proof of concept'. Other issues concerning the validity of empty shops as a measure of rural social health were examined.

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