A Novel Environmental Justice Indicator

for Managing Local Air Pollution

+ Jing Zhao, Laura Gladson, Kevin Cromar

Abstract

Environmental justice efforts in the United States seek to provide equal protection from environmental hazards, such as air pollution, to all groups, particularly among traditionally disadvantaged populations. To accomplish this objective, the U.S. EPA has previously required states to use an environmental justice screening tool as part of air quality planning decision-making. The generally utilized approach to assess potential areas of environmental justice concern relies on static comparisons of environmental and demographic information to identify areas where minority and low income populations experience elevated environmental exposures, but does not include any additional information that may inform the trade-offs that sub-populations of varying socio-demographic groups make when choosing where to reside in cities. In order to address this limitation, job accessibility (measured by a mobility index defining the number of jobs available within a set commuting time) was developed as a novel environmental justice indicator of environmental justice priority areas at the local level. This approach is modeled using real-world data in Allegheny County, PA (USA), and identifies areas with relatively high levels of outdoor air pollution and low access to jobs. While traditional tools tend to flag the poorest neighborhoods for environmental justice concerns, this new method offers a more refined analysis, targeting populations suffering from the highest environmental burden without the associated benefits of urban living.

 

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Jing Zhao is Graduate Assistant in the Health, Environment, and Policy Program at the Marron Institute.

Laura Gladson (M.S.) is a Ph.D. candidate in New York University's Environmental Health Sciences department and a researcher with the Health, Environment, and Policy program at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management.

Kevin Cromar, Ph.D., is a program director at the Marron Institute of Urban Management and an Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine and Population Health at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

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