Decades of research show a clear pattern of racial and socioeconomic discrimination when it comes to siting facilities for hazardous waste disposal, polluting industrial plants and other land uses that are disproportionately located in minority and low-income communities.
But what’s been less clear is whether the placement of these facilities was deliberate on the part of the facilities’ owners and public policymakers, or if the noxious facilities came first, leading to disproportionately higher concentrations of low-income residents and minorities moving into the surrounding community.
In order to test both theories, Paul Mohai of the University of Michigan and Robin Saha of the University of Montana analyzed 30 years of demographic data about the placement of 319 commercial hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities.
By looking at the demographic composition of neighborhoods at the time each hazardous waste facility was built and comparing that with the demographic changes that occurred after the facility began operation, they determined that existing minority and low-income communities were, without doubt, targeted.
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