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ODU's Shaomin Li Studies Parking Behavior as Economic Predictor

sli-shaomin-liShaomin Li

That guy in the SUV who backed into his spot in the parking garage and blocked your visibility may make you angry. But did you know parking behavior can be a predictor of economic performance?

That's the unique and groundbreaking findings of a new study by Shaomin Li, Eminent Scholar and professor of international business in Old Dominion University's Strome College of Business.

Li studied the parking behavior of citizens of the United States, along with the parking behavior in four rapidly growing BRIC economies - Brazil, Russia, India, and China - and Taiwan, looking at the percentage of motorists who back into parking spots, rather than pull in front-first.

In his study on parking behavior, delayed gratification, and economic growth around the world, Li proposed a novel way to predict economic performance across countries by observing the way people park their cars.

Li's article "Predicting Productivity Gains from Parking Behavior" will appear in the International Journal of Emerging Markets. Li wrote about his findings in the July 15 edition of "The Financial Times."

"Economists have long recognized that culture plays an important role in economic performance. The difficulty of studying culture's effect on economic performance is that culture is notoriously hard to measure," Li wrote.

What Li found is that China has the highest percentage of back-in parking, 88 percent, and the U.S. has the lowest percentage at 5.7 percent, with the other three BRIC countries having relatively low back-in parking rates ranging from 17.1 percent in Brazil, to 25.4 percent in India, to 35 percent in Russia. Taiwan, like China, also has a high back-in parking rate at 59.4 percent.

"China and Taiwan share a common culture that emphasizes 'long term orientation,' a term coined by cultural scholar Geert Hofstede. Both countries are also well known for their rapid economic growth, during the 1970s and 1980s in Taiwan and currently in China," Li wrote.

To answer whether there is a relationship between parking and economic performance, Li overlaid the back-in parking rates with some major economic performance indicators for to see if any relationship exists. He found that there was one.

"In sum, the higher the back-in parking rate a country has, the higher the productivity gains, the GDP growth rate and savings rate the country has. Based on the way people park, we can gauge their economic performance," Li wrote.

From the study, Li will develop a "Global Parking Index" for all researchers to use to study world economic development.

See a full copy of the article at the Financial Times website HERE (sign-in required).

Shaomin Li is Eminent Scholar and professor of international business at ODU. He studied in China and also worked in his home country as a business executive, qualifying him to be an expert witness before the U.S. Congress on China's reform.

Li is the author of 14 books and more than 100 articles, which have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of International Business Studies, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and many other publications. In 2008, he received Virginia's top honor for university faculty, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty Award.