Does Wal-Mart reduce social capital?


Social capital has attracted increasing attention in recent years. We use county-level and individual survey data to study how Wal-Mart affects social capital. Estimates using several proxies for social capital—such as club membership, religious activity, time with friends, and other measures—do not support the thesis that “Wal-Mart destroys communities” by reducing social capital. We measure exposure to Wal-Mart two ways: Wal-Marts per 10,000 residents and Wal-Marts per 10,000 residents aggregated over the years since 1979 to capture a more cumulative “Wal-Mart Effect.” We find that the coefficients on Wal-Mart’s presence are statistically insignificant in most specifications.

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Correspondence to Art Carden.

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Carden, A., Courtemanche, C. & Meiners, J. Does Wal-Mart reduce social capital?. Public Choice 138, 109–136 (2009).

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  • Wal-Mart
  • Social capital
  • Community
  • Retail

JEL Classification

  • A10
  • A13
  • D00
  • Z1