Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 119-140

First online:

The Environmental Impact of Immigration: An Analysis of the Effects of Immigrant Concentration on Air Pollution Levels

  • Carmel E. PriceAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Furman University Email author 
  • , Ben FeldmeyerAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, The University of Tennessee

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Despite growing interest in the impact of immigration on U.S. society, research has rarely examined the effects of immigration flows on the natural environment. The current study addresses this gap in research using data on 183 Metropolitan Statistical Areas drawn from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to empirically assess the relationships between contemporary immigration and seven measures of air pollution. In doing so, we seek to (1) broaden knowledge about the social consequences of immigration to include its potential effects on the environment, (2) address competing theoretical perspectives about immigration-environment relationships (i.e., population pressure/social disorganization versus ecological footprint/community resource perspectives), and (3) extend knowledge about the predictors and sources of environmental harm within local communities. In contrast to popular opinion and population pressure positions, our research indicates that immigration does not contribute to local air pollution levels across any of the seven pollution measures examined.


Immigration Pollution Environment Ecological footprint