Dr. David Pyrooz
Dozens of studies have examined “The Walmart effect,” including the company’s influence on economic and social factors, including jobs, poverty and retail prices.
But a new study from professors at Sam Houston State University and the University of South Carolina investigates another component of the effect that has never been examined—Walmart's effect on crime rates.
The study, “Rolling back prices and raising crime rates? The Walmart effect on crime in the United States,” found that in counties where Wal-Mart expanded, there were 17 additional property crimes and two additional violent crimes for every 10,000 people, when compared to counties where Walmart did not expand in the 1990s. The study was co-authored by Dr. David Pyrooz, an assistant criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University and Dr. Scott Wolfe, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina.
“The evidence suggests Walmart growth stunted what could have otherwise been greater drops in crime, particularly property crime,” said Dr. Pyrooz.
Dozens of studies have examined “The Walmart effect,” including the company’s influence on economic and social factors, including jobs, poverty and retail prices. This is the first study to investigate its effect on crime rates.
The study was based on 3,109 counties across the United States, comparing property and violent crime rates in 767 counties where Walmart expanded with similar counties where they did not build. The research was published online by the British Journal of Criminology.
This was not an exercise in the “criminology of the unpopular,” the study emphasized.
“It was an open question,” says Wolfe. “There have been dozens of studies on the ‘Walmart effect’ showing the company impacts numerous outcomes closely related to crime. Our objective was to determine if the Walmart effect extended to understanding crime rates during arguably one of the most pivotal historical periods in the study of crime.”
The study found that Walmart tended to expand in counties with higher than average crime rates even after taking into account factors such as poverty, unemployment, immigration, population structure, and residential turnover.
The authors speculate that much of this relationship occurred because Walmart finds better success building in communities that are less likely to protest the company’s entrance.
“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,” Pyrooz indicated.
The study suggest that the reason why Wal-Mart obstructs crime declines “appears to be a more complex question than data typically available to researchers can answer.”