Population and Environment

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 283–302 | Cite as

Population, immigration, and air quality in the USA: a spatial panel study

  • Guizhen MaEmail author
  • Erin Trouth Hofmann
Original Paper


The role of population size in environmental degradation is a source of both political and academic debate, with the role of immigrant population being particularly salient in developed countries such as the USA. We test the relationship between two population specifications and air quality in the US context, using spatial panel analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index, population, and other explanatory variables for contiguous US counties from 2007 to 2014. We find that both population in general and immigrant population in particular are associated with better, rather than worse air quality. These results are in line with political economy theories arguing that population is not the root cause of environmental problems and coincide with empirical findings of ecologically unequal exchange between core and peripheral countries.


Spatial panel model Population Immigration Environment Air quality USA 



This study was funded by Utah Agricultural Experiment Station (grant number UTA01269).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Social Work & AnthropologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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