A study co-authored by professors from the University of South Carolina and Sam Houston State University has shown us exactly how bad Walmart is for the neighborhoods it infects–and it’s worse than you assumed. In addition to rolling back prices, Walmart has been stunting the decline of crime in neighborhoods in which there is a Walmart presence.
The study, which concentrates on the 1990s when the United States experienced an almost across-the-board drop in crime rates, found that Walmart-inhabited counties crime rates fell at a lower rate when compared to similar counties without a Walmart presence. Non-Walmart counties’ property crime rates fell by 17 additional units per 10,000 people from the 1990s to 2000. A stable two-unit drop in violent crime was observed as well. In other words, if there’s a Walmart in your neighborhood there are an additional 17 property crimes and 2 violent crimes for every 10,000 people.
USC professor Scott Wolfe, a co-author of the study says that the “Walmart effect” is due to the company’s influence on many economic and social factors in communities, including jobs, poverty rates, and retail prices. The study was based on 3,109 United States counties during a time in which crime was falling and Walmart was growing. The big bog giant expanded its reach into 767 of those counties.
Wolfe noticed something else that interested him regarding Walmart’s choices in targeted communities. “Walmart tended to expand in counties with higher than average crime rates,” Wolfe says, “These counties were more likely see Walmart build even after accounting for crime-related predictors, such as poverty, unemployment, immigration, population structure and residential turnover.” Researchers speculate that this occurs because the company enjoys greater success in areas less likely to protest its presence.
Sam Houston assistant professor of criminology David Pyrooz adds that “Counties with more social capital — citizens able and willing to speak up about the best interests of the community — tend to have lower crime rates. Counties with more crime may have less social capital and, therefore, less ability to prevent Walmart from building.”
Despite this startling look into the “Walmart effect” on communities, Wolfe says there is yet work to be done. “More research is needed to uncover why the Walmart effect extends to crime,” Wolfe says. “Does it reduce community social cohesion or simply increase opportunities for theft and other crimes in specific store locations that are great enough to influence county crime rates? These are questions that remain.”
h/t: Science Daily