Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities

By James P. Lester; David W. Allen et al. | Go to book overview

ties, we can potentially lay claim to a commonality of results. Additionally, we want to point out that with any analysis a trade-off exists between aggregation problems (variation within the regions of analysis) and the availability of data (the finer the resolution, the lower the availability of region- specific data). The geopolitical units selected for our analysis are large enough to include the effects of hazards yet small enough to record significant socioeconomic variation, 10 and they can generate sufficient data sources to operationalize and test the model in Equation 2.5.

Third, most of the existing research has examined too few environmental threats; in other words, these studies have utilized too few dependent variables. Just because there is evidence of a relationship between toxic exposure of a single type (e.g., Superfund sites) and minority populations or the poor, that finding says nothing about the multitude of other kinds of toxic exposures and minority populations and the poor, such as water pollution and air pollution of varying types.

By the same token, the available research has been limited by the number of independent variables used in the analyses. Most environmental injustice research used models based on Equations 2.1-2.3. Many other measures besides race, class, and mobilization--as suggested by the environmental politics literature--could have been used as independent variables. We discuss these variables in Chapter 4.

Finally, most of the previous research has been limited to a single unit of analysis (e.g., state, county, city, ZIP code, SMSA), when what is needed is multiple analyses at several different levels. Finding evidence of environmental injustice at the county level says nothing about the relationship between toxic exposures, race, class, and mobilization at other levels of analysis, such as states and cities.

Given the conceptual and methodological problems in existing literature, the question arises as to how, without substantial scientific proof of the existence of race- or class-based inequities, did environmental justice surface onto the public agenda as a major public policy issue during the early 1990s? Moreover, why did the Clinton administration decide to vigorously pursue this issue when previous administrations (from Richard Nixon to George Bush) looked upon this issue as one that needed additional research before policies were put into place? Chapter 3 is devoted to those questions.


Notes
1.
Before proceeding, however, two points need to be made. First, the race dimension inherent in the environmental justice literature has, according to some, turned this issue into the civil rights movement of the 1990s. As such, existing literature reflects a heavy emphasis on the connection between persons of color and environmental harms. However, environmental injustice also contains a class dimension; that is, an additional hypothesis asserts that low-income individuals and communi

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Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Dedications v
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Introduction the Nature of the Problem 1
  • Notes 7
  • 2 - Environmental Injustice Research: Reviewing the Evidence 9
  • Notes 18
  • 3 - Environmental Justice: Getting on the Public Agenda 21
  • Summary and Conclusions 51
  • Notes 52
  • 4 - Modeling Environmental Injustice: Concepts, Measures, Hypotheses, and Method of Analysis 57
  • Summary 73
  • Notes 74
  • 5 - Environmental Injustice in America's States 79
  • Notes 106
  • 6 - Environmental Injustice in America's Counties 113
  • Conclusion 129
  • Notes 131
  • 7 - Environmental Injustice in America's Cities 133
  • Conclusion 144
  • Notes 147
  • 8 - Summary and Conclusions from the Multilevel Analyses 149
  • Conclusion 156
  • Note 157
  • 9 - Existing Federal and State Policies for Environmental Justice: Problems and Prospects 159
  • Summary and Conclusion 171
  • Summary and Conclusion 171
  • 10 - Designing an Effective Policy for Environmental Justice: Implications and Recommendations 173
  • Conclusion 187
  • Notes 188
  • References 189
  • About the Authors 203
  • Index 205
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