Wal-Mart And Hate Groups

WalMartStoreThough they promise they're not trying to pick on Wal-Mart, economists at Penn State have found a positive correlation between the super store's presence in an area and the prevalence of hate groups in that same area.

Via RawStory:

The study, published in Social Science Quarterly, found that the number of Wal-Mart stores was a better predictor of hate group participation than the unemployment rate, high crime rates and low education.

The researchers believe that the correlation between Wal-Mart and hate groups exists because of breakdown of the community. Small local businesses are more likely to be members of civic groups and involved in the community. They are also more likely to have closer relationships among their employees.

“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.

In contrast, people are more likely to feel alienated by big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, the researchers explained. They noted that areas that had Wal-Mart stores were also likely to have other big-box retailers, like Target.

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

Bigger, it seems, is not always better.


  1. Brian says

    I can’t think of a worse abuse of statistics than this purported “study” off the top of my head. Walmart is based in Arkansas, dominates the southern US, and was a latecomer to the Northeastern and Western markets. Hate groups are concentrated in the southern US, and weakest in the Northeast and West. This hate group distribution probably hasn’t changed since the civil war, well before walmart polluted the American retail scene. They are confusing causation with correlation, a very elementary error. And their hypothetical explanation that small business is more active in local chambers of commerce is a laughable explanation for hate group activity.

  2. Chadd says

    What a ridiculous correlation of statistics. You could easily make the same claim about Ford pick ups or pine trees or anything if you have a point to make and then look for numbers that support that point. Personally, I think the best indicator of the number of hate groups would be directly proportionate to the number of Republicans in the same area.

  3. bobbyjoe says

    Since in a lot of the country you can’t drive more than ten minutes without running into another Wal-Mart, I imagine you could also find a lot of other groups that have “correlation” with the store. Knitting groups, Community Theatre, Square-dancing societies…etc., etc., etc.

    I despise Wal-Mart, but WTF is this stupid study supposed to prove?

  4. Bill says

    Us Southern bumpkins are always behind the times. When did they relocate NY and NJ down here? I must have been too busy shopping at Wal-Mart and hating Jews to notice.

  5. anon says

    Taken at face value, I’m not sure what conclusions we could draw. Studies of hate groups show that they originate from a sense of grievance that gets projected onto a local minority group. Also, there is often a sense of alienation from the larger culture at work. These viewpoints start generally among teenage males who then gravitate to or latch on to a local clique because of their rhetorical ability to ‘explain’ things.

  6. Brian says

    Rick, your command of statistics is almost as good as the eggheads at Social Science Quarterly. If I wanted to say all the hate groups were in the south, I would have said something like “all the hate groups are in the south”. Instead, I said concentrated in, since a quick perusal of any data would show they are unusually popular there. Since there’s plenty of hate to go around, that still leaves room for your little Idaho group.

  7. jpeckjr says

    Hate groups existed before WalMart, and they existed throughout the country. In my part of California, native peoples and Chinese immigrants were targets of organized violence and harassment in the 1870s.

    Penn State should probably be researching this question: Does irrational devotion to football cause people to engage in sexual activity with minors?

  8. David Hearn says

    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (not that this really means anything of value but they are the only ones who do this) California has 85 hate groups , followed by Georgia. So much for correlation, right?

    And I’m willing to bet that SPLC doesn’t label the “immigrant rights” groups, ie Mexican nationals illegal ly in the US and with militancy and malice towards Americans as a hate group.

  9. Randy says

    If they truly believe Walmart is a proxy for all big-box stores (seems a silly assumption) perhaps they should repeat their study with SuperTarget.

    Also, not liking the new captcha. Making text hard for machines to read also makes it hard for humans to read. What’s the long-term plan here, as machines get better and humans stay the same?

  10. jim says

    I think the premise is rather silly, especially when they mention that they’re not picking on WalMart, but citing big-box retailers in general. Anyone can walk in a WalMart, take a quick glance around and surely notice that most shoppers present aren’t exactly what would be referred to as the most enlightened, educated, aware and advanced sector of society. I think this is WalMart’s base clientele. I don’t believe it’s Target’s base clientele, based on personal experience. We’ve had both in this area for years, and I don’t believe it’s a “big-box alienation” thing at all.

  11. Bill says

    I’m impressed with the number of “researchers” and “statisticians” that read this blog. Almost as impressive as the number of “lawyers” and “biblical scholars”. What a bunch of geniuses!

  12. David Hearn says

    Bill –

    One of the joys of the internet is that we the general public, should we choose to exercise it, have access to just about the same info that the “experts” do. Not only that, but we have the means to examine their motives. Isn’t that great?

  13. Iban4yesu says

    Here’s the link to the (original)study:


    Both social capital stocks and religious affiliation exert an independent and statistically significant influence on the number of hate groups, as does the presence of Wal-Mart stores, holding other factors constant.”

    Apparently, both Rawstory and TR have (over)simplified it… That doesn’t mean that these researchers were just making a tall claim.

  14. Brian says

    No confusion on my part, I’ve been analyzing regression analyses for a long time now. All you read was the summary, so you have no idea what factors they are modelling. They mention social capital stocks and religious affiliation, as well as walmarts. But the problem is that all three of these variables are strongly affiliated with the southern US. So I understand that there is an influence from walmart stores holding religious affiliation and social capital stocks constant. But as I said in my original comment, they’re just picking up attributes of the south. They could also model the consumption of grits and sweet tea as well, and each additional variable would eat away at the “walmart effect”. In somewhat technical terms the model suffers from a high degree of multicollinearity. It’s a lot easier to just model geography and hate crimes, but that wouldn’t be much of a study.

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