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Towards a General Theory of Environmental Inequality: Social Characteristics of Townships and the Distribution of Pollution in China’s Jiangsu Province

  • Schoolman, Ethan D.
  • Ma, Chunbo

Systematic research into social inequalities in the distribution of environmental hazards, though well-established in American sociology, has largely not been conducted using quantitative data from developing countries. In this study we consider whether theory and methods developed to test for and explain environmental inequality in the U.S. can be extended to a major developing country such as China. We argue that, due in part to the state's hukou registry system, urban workers in China with an official rural residence may be subject to disproportionate exposure to environmental pollution. We also argue that environmental inequalities in China may be shaped in part by social processes analogous to those which have been held to explain racial differences in pollution exposure in the U.S. In an analysis of the locations and emissions of pollution-producing facilities in China's Jiangsu province, we find that townships with a higher percentage of rural migrants are more likely to be exposed to high levels of air and water pollution. This finding holds even after we control for income and for the presence of “dirty and hard” industries in which rural migrants are most likely to find work.

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File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/117809
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Paper provided by University of Western Australia, School of Agricultural and Resource Economics in its series Working Papers with number 117809.

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Date of creation: 07 Nov 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ags:uwauwp:117809
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  1. Douglas Anderton & Andy Anderson & John Oakes & Michael Fraser, 1994. "Environmental Equity: The Demographics of Dumping," Demography, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 229-248, May.
  2. Ma, Chunbo, 2010. "Who bears the environmental burden in China--An analysis of the distribution of industrial pollution sources?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1869-1876, July.
  3. Knight, John & Song, Lina, 1999. "The Rural-Urban Divide: Economic Disparities and Interactions in China," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198293309.
  4. Gustafsson, Bjorn & Shi, Li, 2002. "Income inequality within and across counties in rural China 1988 and 1995," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 179-204, October.
  5. Pamela Davidson & Douglas Anderton, 2000. "Demographics of dumping ii: a national environmental equity survey and the distribution of hazardous materials handlers," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 461-466, November.
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