Superfund Taint and Neighborhood Change: Ethnicity, Age Distributions, and Household Structure
Hedonic Property Value (HPV) models generally consider socio-demographic factors as exogenous in the determination of housing values. We present a descriptive model that shows evidence that contradicts this maintained hypothesis in the HPV literature. Cross-sectional statistical analyses cannot reveal how residential mobility for different socio-demographic groups responds to public perceptions of environmental hazards. Decennial panel data for census tracts surrounding seven different urban Superfund localities allow us to examine how ethnicities, the age distribution and family structure vary, over time, with distance from these major environmental disamenities. To highlight the stylized facts concerning sociodemographic residential mobility near environmental threats, we describe changes over time in relative concentrations of different groups near Superfund sites as opposed to farther away. We find many statistically significant movements, but there appears to be little generalizability across localities in the mobility patterns for different groups in the face of evolving environmental hazards. This heterogeneity may be due to the interaction between different types of risks and risk perceptions and it may account for the difficulty other researchers have experienced in identifying systematic effects in data that are pooled across different environmental hazards. Changes over time in the socio-demographic mix near Superfund sites may also help explain differences in the extent to which housing prices rebound after cleanup commences.
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