By James Boyce, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This post first appeared on Triple Crisis.
Is environmental racism good for white folks? The answer isn’t as obvious as it might seem.
In the United States, there is plenty of evidence that African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans typically face greater pollution burdens than whites, with associated health risks. So if the same total amount of pollution were spread more evenly, whites would wind up breathing dirtier air.
But would total pollution remain the same? Or would pollution decline if it was no longer disproportionately inflicted on minorities?
A recent study by a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, finds that toxic air pollution from industrial facilities is a variable, not a constant, and that the total pollution load is correlated with the extent to which minorities bear higher-than-average pollution impacts.
We measure the extent of disparities in U.S. metropolitan areas by comparing the share of minorities in total exposure risks from industrial air toxics, calculated from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, to their share of metropolitan population. In Birmingham, Alabama, for example, minorities bear 62 percent of the air toxics exposure risk, but constitute only 31 percent of the population. Continue reading…