Air-Toxic Clusters Revisited: Intersectional Environmental Inequalities and Indigenous Deprivation in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regions

  • Raoul S. LiévanosEmail author


The research on quantitative intersectional environmental inequality outcomes examines how the spatial concentration of individuals occupying multiply marginalized social identities is associated with unequal exposure to environmental hazards. One recent exemplar study analyzed racialized and “intercategorical” environmental inequality outcomes in cancer-causing air pollution exposures for Whites, Blacks, Latinxs, and Asian/Pacific Islanders (APIs) at the census tract level in the continental United States. That study found that—net of region, urban-industrial context, and other intercategorical variables—a variable representing elevated concentrations of economically deprived and foreign-born Latinxs, Latina single-mother families, and primarily Spanish-speaking households was the most consistent intercategorical predictor of tract exposure to spatial clusters of carcinogenic air pollution in 2005. The present study reproduces that nationwide analysis while being the first to include disadvantaged Indigenous peoples in the examination of intercategorical environmental inequality outcomes in the continental United States and for the ten U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regions. Logistic regression analyses indicate that the spatial concentration of disadvantaged Indigenous peoples was not a significant nationwide predictor of tract exposure to the carcinogenic air pollution clusters. However, the regional analyses revealed eight new patterns of intercategorical environmental inequality outcomes across the U.S. EPA regions, and the spatial concentration of disadvantaged Indigenous peoples was a significant positive predictor of tract exposure to carcinogenic air pollution clusters in the Mid-Atlantic region. These findings have implications for future environmental justice research, policy, and activism.


Regional racial formation Indigenous peoples Intersectionality Environmental inequality Environmental justice Carcinogenic air pollution U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 



This study was partially funded by the Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Program in the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs at the University of Oregon. I am grateful to Laura Pulido, Kari Norgaard, Toni Calasanti, Vincent Roscigno, and anonymous reviewers who provided valuable feedback on previous drafts of this article. The author is solely responsible for any remaining errors or omissions in the article.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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