Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wal*Mart=Thin People

You know, sometimes it's just fun to poke at people.

I have no dog in the Wal*Mart fight. If another company built a store down the street from my house, with prices lower than Wal*Mart's, all other things being equal, I'd ditch Wal*Mart like the ugly date you wake up with after a night of heavy drinking. Not that I'd know anything about that, of course, not being into heavy drinking :-)

But there are people out there who hate Wal*Mart. They despise it. They look down their noses at it. They'd never deign to shop there. And anyone who does shop there is probably some you-know-what.

Those people are usually lefties, and since I enjoy poking them, ever so gently, when I can, I will do so with this article:

One might think that "everyday low prices" for food would mean that people would eat much more--stuff themselves, even. So one would expect to see more obese folks in places where Wal-Mart does more business. Right? Think again. Research tells a different story.

The University of North Carolina-Greensboro's Charles Courtemanche and I are finishing a study of big retail stores and obesity. In our first round of statistical analysis we found that greater consumer access to a Wal-Mart ( WMT - news - people ) store was associated with lower body-mass indexes and a lower probability of being obese.
I smile now.


maxutils said...

What a poorly constructed survey. First, demand for food (taken as a whole) is historically exceptionally inelastic -- a large % change in price triggers only a very small change in consumption. Wal*Mart shoppers who use them as a source of staples would be more likely to substitute higher priced food items to supplement. At some not very distant point, quantity does not improve satisfaction. Second, they are using access to Wal*Mart as a variable, rather than any connection to ffod actually bought there. I'm guessing that Courtemanche is a sociologist, not an economist.

DADvocate said...

I heard this on the news. Actually, since WalMart never has sales, I buy 90% of my groceries at Kroger's where I save money by buying sale items.

Maybe it's the extra exercise the people get walking through the huge super stores and acres of parking lots.

allen (in Michigan) said...

From the bottom of the linked article:

"Art Carden is a professor of economics and business at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn."

Art Carden's the author of the Forbes article and utilizing the good offices of Google which gets us easily to the CV of the study's other author, Charles J. Courtemanche we find:

Assistant Professor of Economics, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Since you didn't bother to find out that both authors are econ profs would it be safe to say that your casual dismissal of the study issues from a bodily orifice not generally associated with thoughtful criticism?

maxutils said...

No; I was hoping that a fellow economist was not responsible for it. Generally, that sort of sloppy variable specification is found in the realm of the fuzzier social sciences. So, I'll take the slap to my own field of study, but if I'd looked them up, it wouldn't be a guess.