Studying the Surprising Correlation Between Big-Box Stores and Hate Groups

Emily Badger reports on an intriguing new study that shows big-box stores may be even more closely correlated with the presence of hate groups than many of the factors that have long been used to explain them.
April 14, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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While prior studies have shown links between such factors as crime rates, unemployment, education, and geographic location as being associated with the rise of hate groups in communities across the US, a new study published in the journal Social Science Quarterly looks at the relationship between big-box stores and such groups.

Although Badger is careful to note that the study shows a correlation, not causation, "this research suggests national mega-stores like Walmart may fray the social capital in a community – by disrupting its economy and displacing the community leaders who run local businesses – in ways that enable hate groups to take hold."

The report, authored by Penn State's Stephan Goetz, New Mexico State University's Anil Rupasingha and Michigan State's Scott Loveridge, concludes "We doubt strongly that Wal-Mart intends to create such effects or that it specifically seeks to locate in places where hate groups form. However, our discovery of an association between Wal-Mart locations and hate groups could lead the corporation's foundation to play a larger role in supporting the types of local groups that enhance the social capital index used in our analysis."

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Published on Thursday, April 12, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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