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.

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."

Full Story: Big Box Stores Linked To the Presence of Hate Groups



Wal-Marts, supermarkets, and MSAs

Calling this study "intriguing" is quite a stretch.

I think the comment that the second most significant predictor of the existence of a hate group is a county's designation as an MSA. A better headline might have been, "Hate groups found where people live." While Wal-Mart may have had rural origins (and had the big box retailer not turned to cities, this report may have never been written), most big box stores have always been the things of cities (where cities = MSAs, as commonly used in these types of studies). Maybe it's more plausible that hate groups have simply disappeared from small communities because their targets have migrated to larger cities, or, if a link to big box retailers is needed, perhaps communities too small to support a big box store are also too small to support a hate group (it seems that some anonymity is needed to support a hate group, no?).

Is anyone doing a study on (a) whether university researchers have exhausted the supply of legitimate research and publication topics, (b) how much extra time university professors have on their hands to undertake nonsense, or (c) how isolated academia really is from professional practice?

Planner Keith

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