The Organization-Environment Nexus Revisited - Shopping Center Legitimacy, Mall Diffusion, and Mall Survival in the United States, 1923-2009
Roelfs, David John
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The role that resource levels and resource access plays in industry-level emergence and change processes remains highly disputed among organizational scholars. In the present study, I examine the role of industry-level and market-level factors in diffusion and survival processes for the shopping center sector. Data for the dissertation was obtained from shopping center directories, articles published in business periodicals, and a diverse array of government datasets. The resulting aggregated database contains detailed information on the total population of shopping centers in the United States from 1923 to the present. First, I use qualitative data from a content analysis of business press coverage of shopping centers from 1945-1976 to evaluate the role of density in legitimacy building among emergent organizational forms. The results suggest that legitimacy building is process-like rather than event-like, that density serves as a catalyst for legitimacy decisions (rather than a determinant of them), and that the effectiveness of institutional interventions is itself density-dependent. Second, I use constrained non-linear regressions to test three specifications of the density-legitimacy link. Counter to the predictions of organizational theorists, density and legitimacy are weakly rather than intrinsically related. Furthermore, the results suggest that legitimacy is the causal factor in the density-legitimacy relationship rather than vice versa. Third, I examine the factors explaining the spread of enclosed malls in the United States from 1956 to 2009 using Cox regressions. The results suggest that development decisions became decoupled from the size of the consumer spending base during the 1970s mall building boom. The results also show the importance of measuring population and income factors at the market-area level, with biases caused by over-aggregation arising if a broader geographic level-of-analysis is chosen.