Does Wal-Mart reduce social capital?

Art Carden, Charles Courtemanche, Jeremy Meiners

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-136
Number of pages28
JournalPublic Choice
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements Parts of this essay were inspired by conversations with students at Rhodes College. Eric Bryan, Mike Hammock, John V.C. Nye, Deborah Pittman, and two anonymous referees provided comments and useful discussion. Seminar participants at Rhodes College and session participants at the 2007 meetings of the Public Choice Society and the 2007 meetings of the Association of Private Enterprise Educators provided valuable suggestions. Heather Ross proofread the manuscript. Presentation of this work was supported by a grant from The Association of Private Enterprise Education in conjunction with the Goodrich Foundation, The Koch Foundation, The Templeton Foundation, and University Francisco Marroquin.


  • Community
  • Retail
  • Social capital
  • Wal-Mart

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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