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Environmental racism and labor market discrimination: Residential location and industrial endogeneities

Pamela Renee Davidson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The socio-spatial distribution of hazardous waste sites in the United States closely resembles the distribution of industry more generally. An understanding of these spatial patterns requires considering the positive and negative externalities of residence near noxious industrial locations and variations across social groups in the ability to externalize costs. In contrast to the central thesis of the environmental justice framework, there is no evidence of a widespread, inequitable distribution of hazardous waste sites that disproportionately burdens poor and minority neighborhoods. Tract level analysis of national data and data on large metropolitan areas for various types of industrial and environmentally sensitive land uses provides consistent evidence that hazardous waste sites are located in industrial areas. As a general trend, hazardous waste sites tend to be located in white, working class neighborhoods in which larger percentages of persons with lower skills and persons employed in industrial jobs and industries reside, and in which access to modes of mass transportation is readily available. Differences between Hispanics and blacks in the empirical findings in which Hispanics are disproportionately represented in tracts hosting certain types of hazardous waste sites, particularly in metropolitan settings, are attributed to their different migratory histories and experiences with residential segregation and labor market discrimination. The dense residential concentration of blacks in areas with little or diminishing economic activity and blacks' less successful competition with Hispanics over the shrinking base of manufacturing jobs are factors considered to contribute to the lower representation of blacks in noxious industrial locations. The more frequent incidence of Hispanic proximity to noxious industrial locations is described as being reflective of the greater integration of Hispanics in the industrial labor market. The heterogeneity of sites proved to be a salient factor with distributional effects across regions and across different racial and ethnic categories. Older abandoned sites were found in larger numbers in older Northern MSAs. Abandoned sites appeared to be more readily avoided by non-minority whites, particularly when these sites were not the only locations of industrial employment in the larger area.

Subject Area

Demographics|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Geography|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Davidson, Pamela Renee, "Environmental racism and labor market discrimination: Residential location and industrial endogeneities" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3056216.