Environmental Inequality in Metropolitan America

Organ Environ. 2008 Sep 1;21(3):270-294. doi: 10.1177/1086026608321327.


This study compares the environmental hazard burden experienced by Blacks, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Whites in each of the 329 metropolitan areas in the continental United States, using toxicity-weighted air pollutant concentration data drawn from the Environmental Protection Agency's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators project to determine whether and to what degree environmental inequality exists in each of these metropolitan areas. After demonstrating that environmental inequality outcomes vary widely across metropolitan areas and that each group in the analysis experiences a high pollution disadvantage in multiple metropolitan areas and a medium pollution disadvantage in many metropolitan areas, the authors test three hypotheses that make predictions about the role that residential segregation and racial income inequality play in producing environmental inequality. Using logistic regression models to test these hypotheses, the authors find that residential segregation and racial income inequality are relatively poor predictors of environmental inequality outcomes, that residential segregation can increase and decrease racial/ethnic group proximity to environmental hazards, and that the roles income inequality and residential segregation play in producing environmental inequality vary from one racial/ethnic group to another.