Predicting Productivity Gains from Parking Behavior

Forthcoming: International Journal of Emerging Markets, Volume 9, Issue 4

18 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2014

Date Written: July 5, 2014


The study of culture on economic development provides great potential for us to better understand why some economies grow faster. However, realizing this potential is challenging due to the difficulty of collecting cultural data and the unreliable nature of using such data.

I propose to use parking behavior as a direct measure of delayed gratification, a cultural trait recognized by psychologists and economists as contributing to people’s economic success. Specifically, I argue that people who park their cars back-in as opposed to head-in embody a culture of delayed gratification. Backing into a parking space requires more time and effort, but it will enable the driver to exit more easily, safely, and quickly in the future. The feasibility of collecting parking behavior data across countries provides a new and viable way to overcome the limitation of relying on attitudinal or experimental data to measure the culture and behaviors of delayed gratification.

I tested my hypothesis using parking data collected from four major emerging economies — the BRIC countries — and two advanced economies — Taiwan and the U.S. Results show that there is a strong positive relationship between back-in parking and labor productivity gains, which is a main engine of economic development.

I therefore call for a collective effort to establish a “Global Parking Index” for all cultures and societies. Such an index will help us better understand parking behavior and how it may relate to productivity and other socioeconomic behaviors such as learning, saving, and investing.

Keywords: Parking behavior, Back-in parking, Delayed gratification, Labor productivity, Economic development

JEL Classification: B52, J24, O43, Z1

Suggested Citation

Li, Shaomin, Predicting Productivity Gains from Parking Behavior (July 5, 2014). Forthcoming: International Journal of Emerging Markets, Volume 9, Issue 4, Available at SSRN: or

Shaomin Li (Contact Author)

Old Dominion University ( email )

Norfolk, VA 23529-0222
United States

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