ANN ARBOR, Mich.---New research from the University of Michigan is the first known national level study that supports environmental justice scholars' claim that hazardous waste facilities are disproportionately placed in poor, minority neighborhoods.
The other side of that argument is that the hazardous waste facilities came first, which causes the neighborhood demographics to change. As that argument goes, the more affluent white people move out, and poorer minority people are forced to stay or move in, said Paul Mohai, a professor in the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment.
However, done in collaboration with Robin Saha, a former U-M PhD student and post-doctoral scholar, now an assistant professor at University of Montana, shows that minorities were living in the areas where hazardous waste facilities decided to locate before the facilities arrived. Their study also shows that the demographics in the neighborhoods were already changing and that white residents had already started to move out when the facility was sited.
"What we discovered is that there are demographic changes after the siting but they started before the siting," Mohai said. "Our argument is that what's likely happening is the area is going through a demographic shift, and it lowers the social capital and political clout of the neighborhood so it becomes the path of least resistance."
Mohai will present the findings during a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as part of a panel he co-organized, called Environmental Justice 20 years After "Toxic Waste and Race," which was the name of the groundbreaking study of environmental justice that put the movement on the map 20 years ago. Mohai's talk, "Which Came First, People or Pollution? How Race and Socioeconomic Status Affect Environmental Justice," is one of seven scheduled presentations. Robert Bullard, professor at Clark Atlanta University, was the other o
Contact: Laura Bailey
University of Michigan