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Wal-Mart and Social Capital (or Civic Capacity)

This study suggests that the presence of Wal-Mart stores is associated with lower stocks of social capital or “civic capacity.”  We examined the effects of Wal-Mart stores that existed at the beginning of the 1990s decade and the effects of new stores that were built during the 1990s on the level of social capital stocks at the end of the 1990s decade.  In both cases, the effect on social capital was statistically significant and negative.  This result holds after we control for other variables known to affect social capital stocks in a community.

In terms of specific components of the social capital measure, new Wal-Mart stores located during the 1990s were associated with fewer social capital-generating organizations (such as bowling alleys or membership organizations), reduced voter participation rates in the 2000 presidential election, fewer non-profit organizations per capita and lower rates of church adherence.  Wal-Mart stores in place at the beginning of the decade were associated with reduced voter participation in the 2000 election and fewer non-profits, but greater Census participation and higher church adherence rates.

To cite this article:
Goetz, Stephan J. and Anil Rupasingha (2006), “Wal-Mart and Social Capital,” American J. of Agric. Economics, 88 (5), 1304-1310.