Data-Driven Research for Environmental Justice: How Universities Can Help Move Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving
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The U.S. environmental justice movement has prompted much research and debate in the past several decades about the existence of racial and socioeconomic disparities around environmentally hazardous sites of a wide variety. Through recent advancements, many of the uncertainties about the existence and magnitude of such disparities are being resolved. At the same time, uncertainties have also existed about the causes of the disparities. Indeed, the most fundamental question - Which came first, the people or the pollution? - has yet to be satisfactorily answered. Are present-day disparities the result of a historical pattern of siting polluting facilities in minority and poor communities, or are they the result of demographic changes after siting? GIS and other recent methodological advancements are applied in a national-level analysis to attempt to answer these questions and to identify the racial, market-based, and socio-political factors that account for present-day environmental disparities.