Communities across the United States experienced an unprecedented decline in crime in the 1990s. But for counties where Wal-Mart built stores, the decline wasn't nearly as dramatic.
"The crime decline was stunted in counties where Wal-Mart expanded in the 1990s," says Scott Wolfe, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina and lead author of a new study. "If the corporation built a new store, there were 17 additional property crimes and 2 additional violent crimes for every 10,000 persons in a county."
The study, titled "Rolling back prices and raising crime rates? The Wal-Mart effect on crime in the United States," released last month in the British Journal of Criminology, was co-authored with David Pyrooz, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University.
Wolfe says the commonly known "Wal-Mart effect" is the company's overwhelming influence on numerous economic and social factors in communities, including jobs, poverty rates and retail prices
The study was not intended to criticize Wal-Mart, he says. Instead, it attempted to answer the unexplored question of whether Wal-Mart could equate with either more or less crime.
"There have been dozens of studies on the 'Wal-Mart effect' showing the company impacts numerous outcomes closely related to crime. Our objective was to determine if the Wal-Mart effect extended to understanding crime rates during arguably one of the most pivotal historical periods in the study of crime," Wolfe says.