The genesis of this book lies in my longstanding frustration with the quality of the debate about Wal-Mart’s impacts. Since early 1999, which marked the beginning of my study of Wal-Mart, I have struggled against a general misperception to explain what serious researchers do, and do not know about Wal-Mart and local economies. Now, as was the case then, the claims about Wal-Mart, both for the good and the bad were widely made, but often without benefit of data or analysis. I have long believed that an honestly constructed book on the matter was overdue. This is my attempt at such a book.
My interest in Wal-Mart’s local impacts came about quite by accident, resulting from a heated local policy debate surrounding a new Wal-Mart store in rural West Virginia. (I was then an economics professor at Marshall University and Director of Research of the University’s Center for Business and Economic Research). My interest in Wal-Mart’s local impact has continued as time permits, and has resulted in a number of papers and talks on the matter. I do not bring strong preconceptions about Wal-Mart’s specific impacts, and have published work that Wal-Mart’s critics and admirers alike claim as evidence in support of their cause. I hope this is some proof of my objectivity on the issue.