Background: This study explores sociodemographic disparities in residential proximity to unconventional gas development (UGD) among pregnant women. Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis using data from a retrospective birth cohort of 164,658 women with a live birth or fetal death from November 2010 to 2012 in the 24-county area comprising the Barnett Shale play, in North Texas. We considered both individual- and census tract-level indicators of sociodemographic status and computed Indexes of Concentration at the Extremes (ICE) to quantify relative neighborhood-level privilege/disadvantage. We used negative binomial regression to investigate the relation between these variables and the count of active UGD wells within 0.8 km of the home during gestation. We calculated count ratios (CR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) to describe associations. Results: There were fewer wells located near homes of women of color living in low-income areas compared to non-Hispanic white women living in more privileged neighborhoods (ICE race/ethnicity + income: CR = 0.51, 95% CI = 0.48⁻0.55). Conclusions: While these results highlight a potential disparity in residential proximity to UGD in the Barnett Shale, they do not provide evidence of an environmental justice (EJ) issue nor negate findings of environmental injustice in other regions.
Keywords: Barnett Shale; environmental justice; index of concentration at the extremes; maternal and child health; unconventional gas development.