As we learn from a Portfolio.com story by Zubin Jelveh, more erroneous proclamations about how horrible WalMart is for society have been proven–well, erroneous. In fact (studies show), the existence of this bargain superstore may actually be beneficial to the health of, wait for it, the poor. That’s right:
Charles Courtemanche from University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Art Carden of Rhodes College in Tennessee looked at county-level data on big box stores (different versions of Wal-Mart stores as well as Costcos) and survey data which captured residents’ demographic information as well as eating, shopping, smoking, drinking, and exercising habits. They found that one additional regular Wal-Mart store (which doesn’t sell groceries) was associated with a drop of 0.5 pounds for a person of the average height. An additional Super Wal-Mart, which does sell groceries, was associated with a weight drop of 0.18 pounds.
And there’s more:
The researchers think this happens because cheaper goods from Wal-Mart allow shoppers to spend more of their budget on relatively expensive healthier foods. Providing some support to their assertion, when Courtemanche and Carden broke down their results by income, they found that the lowest-earning people saw the most weight loss:
“This is not surprising since low-income consumers would presumably be the most sensitive to modest changes in prices and purchasing power.”
That weight loss thing even surprises me. Although, it is baffling to me that someone actually had to do a study to figure out that poor people are partial to cheap and accessible food. Well, I guess only people who never really worry about budgeting for food would need such a study to learn these nuggets of common knowledge. And such are the Anti-WalMart crowd, who tend to be folks that have never lived near a WalMart let alone had to shop at one. As someone who grew up experiencing occasional “food insecurity” (among various other “insecurities”), I happily welcome WalMart and any other retailer who knows the value of providing people with the things they want at prices they can afford.
Side note: Somehow, this gives me a flashback of what Andrew Young (hired to help WalMart Stores improve its public image) said when asked about whether he was concerned WalMart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close. The comment was misguided and came off horribly, but I sort of got his point. How he had previously answered questions critical of his spokesman role for the company, is how he should have consistently answered such questions. I like this quote a lot:
They’re complaining because they’re wrong and they don’t understand that ending poverty means generating wealth and not just fighting to redistribute the existing wealth…It’s hard-nosed capitalism that’s very rough around the edges. But that’s what it takes to produce a quality lifestyle for poor people.
Well said, sir.