According to a recent national study from Louisiana State University and Baylor University, the presence of small businesses in communities actually contributes to the health of residents in those communities. Drawing from data collected from several national databases, Dr. Troy Blanchard from LSU and Drs. Carson Mencken and Charles Tolbert from Baylor looked specifically at 3,060 counties and parishes in the U.S. in terms of population, health, business, and housing, and how these factors intersect with the presence of small businesses (defined as those with 4 or fewer employees). What they found is that those with a greater proportion of small businesses operating in the area had populations with lower rates of mortality, obesity, and diabetes.
The study assert that one contributing factor may be the degree of investment a small business is willing to make in its community, particularly when compared with big box stores and other industrial companies. Since it is in their interest for that community to be vital and healthy, and thus attract people to the area, they are more likely to support key issues, including a strong health infrastructure with good physicians, local food initiatives like farmer’s markets, anti-smoking campaigns, and other community health programs.
In addition, the one major benefit that bigger companies used to offer (higher wages and better benefits) isn’t nearly as great today as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. What this means is that those residents who work for large industrial and retail companies don’t necessarily have better insurance plans and thus greater access to healthcare and other beneficial services as those who work for small businesses.
Some of the national databases the study relied on include: the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, the 2007 Centers for Disease Control Obesity and Diabetes Estimates, the National Center for Health Statistics Compressed Mortality Records (1994–2006), the 2002 County Business Patterns, and the 2002 Nonemployer Statistics.