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Rolling Back Prices and Raising Crime Rates? The Walmart Effect on Crime in the United States

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 54 Issue: 2 Dated: March 2014 Pages: 199-221
Scott E. Wolfe; David C. Pyrooz
Date Published
March 2014
23 pages
This paper presents the results of a study that examined the effect that Wal-Mart stores have on crime rates.
Findings from this study on the effect that Wal-Mart stores have on crime rates include the following: in U.S. counties where Wal-Mart built stores in the 1990s, crime rates declined less than in those counties in which Wal-Mart chose not to build; and the violent and property crime rates fell by 2.1 and 17.0 additional units per 10,000 citizens, respectively, in those counties where Wal-Mart chose not to build. Using a variety of data sources, this study examined the Wal-Mart effect on crime rates in the 1990s. Data for 3,109 counties were obtained from 1) annual crime data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports for the period 1990 through 2009; 2) Wal-Mart store data from a publicly available database; 3) county structural indicators from the 1990 U.S. Census; and 4) employment-sector data obtained from the 1990 Bureau of Economic Analysis. Making adjustments for Wal-Mart's building strategy the data was analyzed to determine how Wal-Mart's decision to build in certain counties affected the violent and property crime rates for those counties. The analysis found that on average, counties with Wal-Mart stores had higher violent and property crime rates compared to similarly situated counties without the presence of the retail store, and that this finding emerged even after controlling for robust predictors of crime such as disadvantage and residential stability. The findings also suggest that there may be something unique about Wal-Mart and its stores that produce a relationship with crime. Implications for policy are discussed. Figure, tables, and references