Center for Urban Research and Learning

Loyola University Chicago

Here you will find all of CURL's research projects and publications. 

The Impact of an Urban Wal-Mart Store on Area Businesses: An Evaluation of One Chicago Neighborhood’s Experience

(1/1/2006 – 8/30/2009)


Evaluations of Wal-Mart’s impact on urban retail businesses and local employment are necessary to inform policy makers, scholars, and community activists looking to improve economic opportunities for inner-city residents. This study, conducted by CURL and University of Illinois Chicago, focuses on the Wal-Mart store that opened on the West Side of Chicago in September 2006. 

The research team conducted a series of three surveys of retail businesses in an area within a four-mile radius of the Wal-Mart location at 4650 W. North Ave, Chicago IL 60639.  This area is roughly bounded by Irving Park Avenue to the north, Western Avenue on the east, Roosevelt Avenue on the south, and Harlem Avenue on the west.  The surveys were administered in the summers of 2006 (before the Wal-Mart opening), 2007 and 2008.  The basic sample follows 306 enterprises 82 of which went out of business over the study period.   

The first wave of data was collected from March 2006 to August 2006 via telephone surveys. These surveys enabled the researchers to obtain baseline information prior to Wal-Mart's opening regarding the number of hours worked by employees at local businesses, along with salary ranges and details of employee benefits. Businesses included in this portion of the study included discount stores, drug stores, apparel stores, toy stores, shoe stores, and hardware stores.

The second wave of data was collected six months after the Chicago Wal-Mart opened, from March 2007 through November 2007, and included another survey of the stores that had been contacted in 2006. This second round of surveying was conducted over the phone and concentrated on whether an immediate impact, such as going out of business or altered wages, employment, or prices, was felt due to the opening of Wal-Mart. The group was able to re-survey about 56 percent of the original stores.

The third, and final, wave of data collection began in March 2008 and wrapped up in November 2008. In all, 306 enterprises were tracked, and the research team found that 82 of them went out of business during the study period.

In addition to surveying area businesses, the group also assessed other sources of data, including sales tax data from the Illinois Department of Revenue and employment data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

 A key finding of the survey is that the probability of going out of business during the study period was significantly higher for establishments close to the Wal-Mart location.  This probability fell off at a rate of 6 percent per mile in all directions from the Wal-Mart store.  The relationship to distance was particularly strong for establishments in electronics, toys, office supplies, general merchandise, hardware, home furnishings, and drugs.  Closings for apparel stores, shoe stores, sporting goods, children’s stores and video/music showed no statistically significant relation to distance. 

View Final Report


Research Team:

  • R. Baiman, Consultant
  • J. Persky, UIC Economics Department 
  • D. Embrick, Faculty, Dept. of Sociology & CURL Faculty Fellow
  • D. Merriman, UIC Urban Planning and Public Affairs
  • J. Davis, University Community Research Coordinator (CURL)
  • L. Thum, Undergraduate Fellow (CURL)
  • L. Samayoa, Undergraduate Fellow (CURL)
  • T. Arkfeld, Undergraduate Fellow (CURL)
  • B. Flanagan, Undergraduate Fellow (CURL)
  • K. Caleal, Urban Studies
  • M. Bunda, Urban Studies
  • E. Johnson, Urban Studies
  • C. Kanakis, Urban Studies
  • S. Budzynski, Urban Studies
  • B. Taylor, Urban Studies

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