Environmental Injustice in the United States: Myths and Realities

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

is, increasing proportions of the black population were associated with increasing levels of ozone depletion and toxic chemicals released to the atmosphere, toxic waste, and toxic and chemical pollution of surface and ground- water. In two other instances, we found either no relationship between the black population (solid waste) or a relationship contrary to the initial hypothesis (degree of water-system violations). However, by far the most interesting and perplexing finding focused on the black population-Sunbelt conditional relationship. In both instances, the results indicate that black populations residing outside Sunbelt states were associated with higher levels of nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and sulphur dioxide air pollutants and hazardous waste than was the case for black Americans residing in the Sunbelt. This finding, exploratory as it is, is perplexing. We would expect to find that black Americans living in Sunbelt states were exposed to higher levels of pollution. First, the Sunbelt has undergone unrivaled development leading to higher levels of environmental pollution. Second, large proportions of the black population reside in the Sunbelt region. Nevertheless, this bears closer scrutiny.

We also have interesting race-based findings for the Hispanic population. First, in three out of seven instances, we found either no relationship between this group and environmental harms or a negative relationship that was contrary to the initial hypothesis. In one instance--hazardous waste-- we did find the requisite positive relationship that conforms to the initial hypothesis. However, in three instances we found conditional relationships based on region. For our two measures of water pollution, we found that Hispanics living outside Western states were subjected to higher levels of harms. In contrast, we found that Hispanics residing within Western states were subjected to higher levels of toxic waste. Like our region-based black conditional findings, this set of results bears closer investigation.

One additional statistical finding is of interest: The pollution-potential measure was a consistent feature in establishing the level of environmental hazards in six out of seven instances--either in the form of a direct positive relationship or as part of a conditional relationship expressing social class. As a consequence, any environmental injustice research needs to account for this key concept.

Chapter 6 replicates our state-level results using the 2,000-plus counties in the United States for which toxic release inventory data were available. We want to see if the findings from the state-level investigation stand up at a different level of analysis.


Notes
1.
Elimination of extreme outliers, to correct skewed distributions on each air pollution indicator, was partially achieved by recoding data. Recoded data was sub

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