Scholarly studies show Wal-Mart’s price reductions to be sizable. Economist Emek Basker of the University of Missouri found long-term reductions of 7 to 13 percent on items such as toothpaste, shampoo and detergent. Other companies are forced to reduce their prices. On food, Wal-Mart produces consumer savings that average 20 percent, estimate Jerry Hausman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ephraim Leibtag of the Agriculture Department.
All told, these cuts have significantly raised living standards. How much is unclear. A study by the economic consulting firm Global Insight found that from 1985 to 2004, Wal-Mart’s expansion lowered the consumer price index by a cumulative 3.1 percent from what it would have been. That produced savings of $263 billion in 2004, equal to $2,329 for each U.S. household. Because Wal-Mart financed this study, its results have been criticized as too high. But even if price savings are only half as much ($132 billion and $1,165 per household), they’d dwarf the benefits of all but the biggest government programs.
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