Wal-Mart caters to people with less money and there has long been a link between poverty and crime.
Criminologists have instead taken the additional step of implicating Wal-Mart in crime rates.
Communities across the United States saw decline in crime during the 1990s. Some said it was due to more abortions, others due to more police and a society less willing to coddle criminals. Scott Wolfe, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina, and David Pyrooz, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University, write in the British Journal of Criminology, says it had to do with Wal-Mart not being there.
Mainstream media go cuckoo for weak observational studies so this should be a big hit.
As humanities scholars often do, they were determined to create a data basis for their personal and cultural beliefs, and because Wal-Mart puts up stores where it will reach its market, it was simple to transpose the crime rate of poor neighborhoods onto the company.
"The crime decline was stunted in counties where Wal-Mart expanded in the 1990s," says Wolfe. "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."
There you have it; correlation = causation. If there are terrorist attacks in Sochi during the Winter Olympics, we can blame them on the price of apples the same way.
They blame the "Wal-Mart effect", the belief that the company's influence retail prices creates crime, seemingly because people have more money to spend on other things. Yet they say they don't intend to criticize Wal-Mart. We are to believe a title like "Rolling back prices and raising crime rates" for an article was data-driven.
They examone 3,109 U.S. counties in the 1990s, which saw falling crime rates nationally. During that decade Wal-Mart expanded in 767 of those counties. They matched the counties where Wal-Mart expanded with counties similar in where Wal-Mart avoided. They tracked the crime rates in those counties over time.
"There is something unique about the counties that Wal-Mart selects," Wolfe says. "Wal-Mart tended to expand in counties with higher than average crime rates. These counties were more likely see Wal-Mart build even after accounting for crime-related predicators, such as poverty, unemployment, immigration, population structure and residential turnover.
What does that mean? They invent a conspiracy tale that areas with higher crime will be less likely to protest Wal-Mart and so Wal-Mart is making its decisions based on that - and not its ability to make a profit. It's a good thing the authors are in academia and not business, because they have no idea how business actually works. Aside from rich people in Connecticut and California protesting everything, no one protested Wal-Mart in the 1990s.
"Counties with more social capital—citizens able and willing to speak up about the best interests of the community—tend to have lower crime rates," Pyrooz says. "Counties with more crime may have less social capital and, therefore, less ability to prevent Wal-Mart from building."
Even the phrase "less ability to prevent" oozes with agenda. Why would poor people protest Wal-Mart in the first place?
The paper is a mish-mash of conjecture. They can't blame Wal-Mart for higher crime so they instead imply that crime rates would have dropped more if Wal-Mart never existed. Their findings didn't show that Wal-Mart growth corresponded with increases in poverty, economic disadvantage or other factors associated with crime yet they still blame the company for crime.
Wolfe says it is important to note that study stresses that Wal-Mart does not have a detrimental impact on all counties and that Wal-Mart growth can be beneficial in some communities, particularly those in economic distress. That's after stating that counties in economic distress have higher crime rates due to Wal-Mart opening a store.