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Social Capital, Religion, Wal-Mart, and Hate Groups in America*


  • The second-named author will share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate the study.

Direct correspondence to Stephan J. Goetz, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, 7E Armsby Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802–5602 <>.



The recent surge in hate group activity is a concern to many citizens and policymakers. We examine the roles of socioeconomic factors measured at the county level that are hypothesized to account for the presence of such groups, including social capital and religious affiliations.


We estimate a Poisson regression model using counts of hate groups provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center for each of the over 3,000 U.S. counties. Our regressors include a wider set of variables than has been considered in previous studies, such as Jefferson and Pryor (1999).


Our approach produces a better statistical fit than that in Jefferson and Pryor's paper, and the additional regressors contribute significantly to our understanding of hate groups.


Both social capital stocks and religious affiliation exert an independent and statistically significant influence on the number of hate groups, as does the presence of Wal-Mart stores, holding other factors constant.