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Environmental Justice: The Economics of Race, Place, and Pollution

Author

Listed:
  • Spencer Banzhaf
  • Lala Ma
  • Christopher Timmins

Abstract

The grassroots movement that placed environmental justice issues on the national stage around 1980 was soon followed up by research documenting the correlation between pollution and race and poverty. This work has established inequitable exposure to nuisances as a stylized fact of social science. In this paper, we review the environmental justice literature, especially where it intersects with work by economists. First we consider the literature documenting evidence of disproportionate exposure. We particularly consider the implications of modeling choices about spatial relationships between polluters and residents, and about conditioning variables. Next, we evaluate the theory and evidence for four possible mechanisms that may lie behind the patterns seen: disproportionate siting on the firm side, "coming to the nuisance" on the household side, market-like coordination of the two, and discriminatory politics and/or enforcement. We argue that further research is needed to understand how much weight to give each mechanism. Finally, we discuss some policy options.

Suggested Citation

  • Spencer Banzhaf & Lala Ma & Christopher Timmins, 2019. "Environmental Justice: The Economics of Race, Place, and Pollution," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 185-208, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:33:y:2019:i:1:p:185-208
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.33.1.185
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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