Date of Degree

9-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Kenneth A. Gould

Committee Members

Juan Battle

Jeremy R. Porter

Leslie Paik

Subject Categories

Place and Environment

Keywords

environmental justice, environmental racism, geographic information systems, spatial clustering

Abstract

The southern United States has been labeled a “sacrifice zone” for the rest of the nation's toxic waste. In the early days of the environmental justice movement, researchers found that the south contained a disproportionate number of toxic sites, including garbage dumps, landfills, and waste incinerators. These initial studies used different data sources and methodologies, but arrived at the same conclusion: America was dumping in Dixie, a predominantly poor African American region of the country. Since then, researchers have mainly confirmed or called into question the existence of environmental racism within the south. However, none have investigated the south’s environmental burdening relative to other regions in the U.S. Drawing on county-level U.S. census data and the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, this study assesses the spatial and social distribution of toxic releases across the U.S. from 1987 to 2017. The primary purpose of this study is to use a standard measure of environmental risk to determine if the American south is (still) the nation’s “sacrifice zone.” Additionally, this study assesses whether patterns of environmental racism that were present in the early stages of the environmental justice movement are still present today.

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