Hate group formation associated with big-box stores

Apr 11, 2012

The presence of big-box retailers, such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target, may alter a community's social and economic fabric enough to promote the creation of hate groups, according to economists.

The number of Wal-Mart stores in a county is significantly correlated with the number of hate groups in the area, said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural economics and regional economics, Penn State, and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development.

"Wal-Mart has clearly done good things in these communities, especially in terms of lowering prices," said Goetz. "But there may be indirect costs that are not as obvious as other effects."

The number of Wal-Mart stores was second only to the designation of a county as a Metropolitan Statistical Area in statistical significance for predicting the number of hate groups in a county, according to the study.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the online version of , said that the number of Wal-Mart stores in a county was more significant statistically than factors commonly regarded as important to hate group participation, such as the unemployment rate, high crime rates and low education.

The researchers suggested several theories for the correlation between the number of large retail stores and hate groups in an area.

Goetz, who worked with Anil Rupasingha, adjunct professor of agricultural economics and agricultural business, New Mexico State University, and Scott Loveridge, professor and director of the Northcentral Regional Center for Rural Development, Michigan State University, said that local merchants may find it difficult to compete against large retailers and be forced out of business.

Local business owners are typically members of community and civic groups, such as the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. Losingmembers of these groups, which help establish programs that promote civic engagement and foster community values, may cause a drop in community cohesion, according to Goetz.

"While we like to think of American society as being largely classless, merchants and bankers are part of what we could call a leadership class in a community," Goetz said.

The large, anonymous nature of big-box retailers may also play a role in fraying social bonds, which are strongestwhen individuals feel that their actions are being more closely watched. For example, people may be less likely to shoplift at a local hardware store ifthey know the owner personally, Goetz said.

Religious priming -- using certain words or phrases to promote a range of attitudes and behaviors -- may also play a role, according to the researchers. In one study of religious priming, after participants reviewed a list of Christian words, such as Bible, gospel and Messiah, they also tended to support racist attitudes against blacks.

The researchers said that because Wal-Mart promotes typical Protestant values, such as savings and thrift, the cues may lead customers to adopt other beliefs, including intolerant attitudes, according to the researchers.

The researchers used data collected by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that monitors the activities ofhate groups, on hate groups in each U.S. county in 2007. They used the number and location of Wal-Mart stores from 1998. Goetz said the lag time between the data sets provided time for the possible influence of a store to affect a community.

Goetz said that the researchers chose Wal-Mart for the study because of the availability of data on the stores. He added that the presence of Wal-Mart in an area generally indicates the establishment of other types of big-box retailers, such as Home Depot and Target.

"We're not trying to pick onWal-Mart," said Goetz. "In this study, Wal-Mart is really serving as a proxy for any type of large retailer."

The store chain could use this study to find ways to play a role in supporting local groups that can foster stronger social and economic ties in a community.

"We doubt strongly that Wal-Mart intends to create such effects or that it specifically seeks to locate in places where hate groups form," the researchers said.

Explore further: Power can corrupt even the honest

More information: Paper online: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10… 012.00854.x/abstract

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User comments : 12

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tadchem
not rated yet Apr 11, 2012
I have seen a lot of hate in places with no Wal-Mart, K-Mart or Target Stores - places like New York City.
This hypothesis totally fails to explain the rise of hate in sub-Saharan Africa, early 20th century Germany, and many other places. It seems to serve merely as a convenient indictment of Capitalism and the Economy of Scale - with only the most dubious of empirical supporting data.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Apr 11, 2012
Sounds like a perfect case of correlating ice cream consumption with drowning.

Both happen at beaches.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2012
In the socialist country that I currently occupy, I see no race based hate at all.

It must be due to the proper socialization of the populace, compared to more capitalist/fascist nations like the U.S.
ROBTHEGOB
3 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2012
This would explain Eric Cartman's delight when Wal-Mart came to South Park. God I love science.
Deathclock
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 11, 2012
Well, it's true that whenever I am in Walmart it makes me think about how much I hate most people... but that's not Walmart's fault, that's because people are, for the most part, deplorable and miserable creatures.
xen_uno
1 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2012
Have to agree with you there, Death ... 10x worse tho when there's only 1 pair of Air Jordans on the shelf and you have to throwdown to get em.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 12, 2012
Why does American Capitalism produce such anti-social psychopathic personalities?

Could it be that greed and rabid self interest are not the basis of a stable society in contradiction to the Capitalist/Conservative/Libertarian/Randite ideologies?

"Well, it's true that whenever I am in Walmart it makes me think about how much I hate most people." - DeathClock
Deathclock
1 / 5 (1) Apr 12, 2012
I was thinking of you when I made that comment VD...
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Apr 12, 2012
Yes.. Well... To know me is to love me.

"I was thinking of you when I made that comment VD..." - DeathClock

Hate is a mind killer.
mtc123
not rated yet Apr 12, 2012
Nonsense from hate filled sheep in academia.
mtc123
1 / 5 (2) Apr 12, 2012
Communist college professsors breed legions of dirty,drug addicted Obama World Socialist (OWS) rapists.
Camel59
not rated yet Apr 19, 2012
So a socialist brain crapped a theory. These are probably the same guys who say there are alternative families? Bull. Wal-mart and hate crimes don't match up naturally either.