Hazardous Air Pollutants & Flooding: A comparative interurban study of environmental injustice
The environmental justice literature, which finds that lower status groups tend to experience disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards, has underemphasized natural hazards, the benefits that accompany exposure to environmental risks, and comparative analytical frameworks. This study addresses these limitations by assessing patterns of environmental injustice with respect to economic deprivation (insecurity and instability), race, and ethnicity at the census tract level in the Miami and Houston Metropolitan Statistical Areas for 100-year flood risk and cancer risk from exposure to air toxics. When predicting air toxic exposure using spatial error regression models, instability was positive and significant in both cities; proportion Hispanic was significantly positive in Houston and significantly negative in Miami; neighborhood economic insecurity was positive and significant in Miami; and proportion black was not significant in either city. For flooding, spatial error regression models showed that proportion black was negative and significant in both cities; proportion Hispanic was significantly negative in Houston and nearly significantly positive in Miami; insecurity was negative and significant in Miami; and instability was not significant in either city. Results demonstrate that environments present benefits as well as risks and that this shapes patterns of environmental injustice in urban areas. The divergent findings for Hispanic suggest that analyzing Hispanic as a monolithic category of social disadvantage in the US context may not be useful in diverse cities with large Hispanic populations. More comparative studies are needed to disentangle the roles of hazard characteristics (frequency/magnitude, suddenness of onset, and divisibility) in shaping patterns of environmental injustice.