Study Finds Quality of Life Undamaged by Wal-Mart

The arrival of a town's new Wal-Mart is notorious for being detrimental to the community. But when it comes to social capital, obesity, leisure time, and social and political values, Wal-Mart might not be so bad after all, according to one study.
February 6, 2009, 7am PST | Judy Chang
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"'A theme of our research might be that the hype about Wal-Mart is a little bigger than the reality,' Courtemanche said. 'Wal-Mart has come to be seen as a symbol of everything evil about capitalism, and when you look at what does it actually cause, well, there are substantial price effects but not a whole lot much else.'"

"They also used multiple estimation strategies. One of the challenges of estimating the consequences of Wal-Mart entry is that the store does not choose its locations randomly but decides based on certain characteristics of different communities. If these characteristics are associated with particular deficiencies in social capital, this could give the appearance that Wal-Mart is degrading communities when, in actuality, its arrival is merely an indicator of a community having diminished levels of social capital."

"What they found was that depending on how they set up their statistical measurement, the effects of Wal-Mart on different indicators of social capital bounced around, going from positive to negative, from statistically significant to statistically insignificant - all suggesting that while there might certainly be cases where Wal-Mart's arrival had a negative impact on various aspects of social capital, effects were far from uniform. Their findings are reported in the January 2009 issue of Public Choice."

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Published on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 in Miller-McCune
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