, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 113-132
Date: 09 May 2013

The distribution of pollution and environmental justice in Puerto Rico: a quantitative analysis

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This research quantifies the distribution of toxic releases in Puerto Rico to determine whether environmental inequality exists. We calculate an environmental Gini coefficient using Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data from 2000 to 2008. Our findings suggest Puerto Rico has a relatively constant and unequal distribution of releases over this time period. Based on this result, we investigate linkages between toxic releases and several socioeconomic and demographic indicators. We apply a quantile regression model using TRI data and American Community Survey data from 2005 to 2008 to identify important indicators across the distribution of releases. We find municipios (legal division equivalent to US counties) that have a higher percent of non-Puerto Rican Hispanic origin or high school educated population experience higher releases to all media. This also is true for unemployment, but only for municipios with the largest releases (i.e., highest quintile). The results also reveal municipios that are more densely populated or that have a higher percent of college degrees experience lower releases to all media. Higher proportions of certain age groups also suggest lower releases. These results are not constant across the distribution of releases; they are most significant in those municipios with the largest releases. This is even more obvious when we only examine releases to air.