Place, Space, and Racially Unequal Exposures to Pollution at Home and Work
Elliott, James R.; Smiley, Kevin T.
Research on racial inequalities in exposure to industrial pollution in U.S. metropolitan areas typically focuses on places of residence, ignoring the fact that most people work and commute to other areas to do so. To investigate what these daily commutes mean for understanding place- and space-based disparities in exposure, we merge federally compiled data on commuting and industrial air pollution with sociodemographic data on the home and work tracts of employed adults in Houston, Texas. Results from descriptive analyses and spatial regression models yield several insights often presumed but heretofore undemonstrated in prior research: (1) generally, people work in more toxic areas than they reside; (2) blacks and Latinos work as well as reside in more toxic areas than whites; and (3) unequal spatial relations via commuting powerfully predict a place’s level of toxic air pollution, net of other factors, including racial composition. Implications for current and future research are discussed.
environmental inequality; urbanization; pollution; commuting; spatial statistics