A reader directed me to this pile of pap at the "MSN moneyblog topstocks" (boy, that sounds promising) site.
One can easily imagine a recent phone conversation between this "article's" author and Bentonville, home of Wal-Mart:
"Just make that check out to Anthony Mirhaydari, Spelled m-i-r-h-a-y-d-a-r-i. No, I won't take in-store credit ..."
By Anthony Mirhaydari
In the latest surprise to come out of the halls of academia, researchers have found "robust evidence" that Wal-Mart is responsible for slimming down not only its shoppers, but the people of the community surrounding it.
As I discussed in my first-ever post on Top Stocks, Wal-Mart is able to expand real incomes thanks to its zealous commitment to low prices. A separate study has found that there is up to a 1.2% reduction in grocery prices at competing locations when Wal-Mart enters a market. So even if you don't shop at one, you're still benefiting.
According to the research, people armed with greater purchasing power substitute healthier, higher quality foods like fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets while avoiding processed foods high in fat. For every 100,000 residents, the addition of one Wal-Mart increases produce consumption by 2%, to roughly four servings per day. This causes a statistically significant weight loss of half a pound.
An even bigger impact is made on lower-income shoppers, who spend a larger percentage of their disposable income on food and household goods. These folks are also traditionally more likely to suffer from obesity.
The key is whether or not unhealthy foods are considered "inferior goods" in the eyes of consumers. If so, than income gains caused by Wal-Mart will decrease consumption in favor of healthier foods. If not, than people will just buy more junk food with their extra money. At this point, the evidence seems to support the former.
Another caveat, sure to be mentioned frequently in the comments below, is whether Wal-Mart negatively affects actual earned incomes by forcing small businesses to close. Research in this area is mixed, I will admit. For the sake of argument, and citing a study that finds net job creation in the near-term, the authors assume Wal-Mart's presence is a positive.
If you seem underwhelmed by the result, know that the weight drop could've been much larger: An additional Wal-Mart is related to a 2.9% reduction in the probability of engaging in regular exercise. Most likely, the researchers report, people didn't have that nagging urge to hit the gym as a better diet kept their weight down naturally.
Still, every little bit helps. Plus, these findings play into Wal-Mart's continued efforts to rebrand itself as a benevolent corporate entity and appeal to those urban and suburban shoppers that avoid the retailer -- and the gym, for that matter.
Be sure to join in the discussion, either in the comment field below or on the MSN Money message boards.
(Disclosure: I don’t control a position in any of the companies mentioned)
Read the rest - - and especially the comments - - at MSN Money.
Then read this: