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This article compares black and Hispanic environmental inequality levels across 14 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States and asks how conclusions regarding the existence of environmental inequality differ when different definitions of environmental inequality are employed. Using census tracts as the unit of analysis, industrial pollution data from the Toxic Release Inventory, and demographic data from the U.S. census, tobit regression analysis is used to determine whether two types of environmental racial inequality—disparate social impacts inequality and relative distribution inequality—existed in each metropolitan area in 2000. Results show that black and Hispanic environmental inequality were fairly widespread throughout the 14 metropolitan areas, that Hispanic environmental inequality was more widespread than black environmental inequality, and that conclusions vary depending upon which definition of environmental inequality is employed. This latter findings suggests that the conclusions researchers draw are likely to be inaccurate if they do not properly specify the definitions of environmental inequality they are using and the types of environmental inequality they are studying.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02732170500256716

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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