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By all measures: an examination of the relationship between segregation and health risk from air pollution

Abstract

A great deal of evidence suggests that African-Americans in more racially segregated communities are at a higher risk for a variety of health problems. Scholars have argued that these health inequalities might be explained by racial differences in exposure to air toxins. However, there are a number of ways to measure segregation, each representing different pathways of exposure. There has yet to be a systematic evaluation of how exposure to air toxins varies by these different measures, making it difficult to begin to theorize about the causal story linking segregation, pollution and health. This paper addresses this gap by examining how the health risk from industrial toxins varies by the 19 most commonly used segregation measures. Results show that, with the exception of two segregation measures, living in metro areas with relatively higher segregation levels, is associated with significantly greater health risk from industrial air toxins for all racial groups. Moreover, African-Americans in more segregated metro areas typically experience an added risk of exposure compared to non-Hispanic whites.

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Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank Ilya Bolkhovsky, Steve Naber, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Kerry Ard.

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Ard, K. By all measures: an examination of the relationship between segregation and health risk from air pollution. Popul Environ 38, 1–20 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-015-0251-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-015-0251-6

Keywords

  • United States
  • Racial segregation
  • Environmental inequality
  • Air pollution
  • Health risk
  • Multilevel models