“The Health and Wealth of US Counties: How the Small Business Environment Impacts Alternative Measures of Development.” Troy C. Blanchard, Charles Tolbert, and Carson Mencken, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy, and Society, 2011.
This is one of several studies that have drawn a link between an economy of small-scale businesses and improved community well-being, including lower rates of crime and better public health. “Counties with a vibrant small-business sector have lower rates of mortality and a lower prevalence of obesity and diabetes” compared to places dominated by big firms, the authors conclude. They surmise that a high degree of local ownership improves a community’s “collective efficacy” — the capacity of its residents to act together for mutual benefit. Previous research has linked collective efficacy to population health, finding that engaged communities tend to create the kinds of infrastructure that foster healthier choices.