The worst Walmarts are located in low-income, minority communities.
That’s according to a study published in May by Contexts, a quarterly publication of the American Sociological Association.
A Walmart store’s location is closely related to how good or bad the store’s customer service is, the study found.
The study, which was recently highlighted by The Atlantic’s CityLab, evaluated customer service by analyzing the Yelp reviews of 2,840 Walmart locations across the US.
Stores in areas that have lower average incomes have significantly worse customer reviews than locations in higher-income ZIP codes. Additionally, locations in areas with higher proportions of black or Latino residents have worse reviews than those in areas with more white residents.
The study’s author, Adam Reich, an assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University, analyzed approximately 35,000 reviews of Walmart locations and found that there was a consistent correlation between a neighborhood’s majority race and socioeconomic status, and a location’s Yelp reviews. Reich blames the disparity on Walmart’s decision to understaff stores in certain areas.
In the early 2000s, Walmart implemented cost-cutting policies that reduced the number of necessary employees per store and resulted in a drop in stores’ quality. This study provides evidence that a decrease in store quality was not consistent across the board, but instead affected some customers more than others.
“Walmart is the largest retailer and largest employer in the world; moreover, it has consciously branded itself as a champion of and boon for disadvantaged communities,” Reich wrote. “Its underinvestment in these communities is thus particularly notable.”
A Walmart spokesperson told Business Insider that the company found the analysis to be “flawed and without merit.”
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