This one’s sure to boil some blood over at Walmart headquarters: A new study says there’s a significant correlation between the amount of Walmart stores in an area and the number of hate groups existing in that same area. As the big-box stores proliferate, so do the groups.
LiveScience.com cites the study by professors at Penn State University, New Mexico State University and Michigan State University, which says that the amount of Wal-Mart stores in a county was more statistically significant than other factors usually associated with hate group participation. For example, the unemployment rate, high crime rates and low education.
“Wal-Mart has clearly done good things in these communities, especially in terms of lowering prices,” said Stephan Goetz, a Penn State University professor who also serves as the director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. “But there may be indirect costs that are not as obvious as other effects.”
An important puzzle piece in this research is that many local merchants, who are often members of community and civic groups, can be forced out of business while trying to compete with Walmart. Losing members of those groups might cause a drop in community togetherness.
When those leaders leave, the presence of ginormous, anonymous juggernauts of big-box retailers could play a role in fraying social bonds. People often act different when they feel like someone is paying attention — like when you decide not to shoplift at the local candy store because the owner is best friends with your mother.
The study only dealt with the correlation between Walmart and hate groups, but the researchers do note that if there’s a Walmart around, other box stores like Target and Home Depot likely are as well.
“We’re not trying to pick on Wal-Mart,” said one researcher. “In this study, Wal-Mart is really serving as a proxy for any type of large retailer.”
Do Big-Box Stores Help Create Hate Groups? Study Says Yes [LiveScience.com]