Document Type


Publication Title

Social Problems


University of California Press

Publication Date







Environmental Sciences


National-level studies examining racial disparities around hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities have been very influential in defining the academic and political debates about the existence and importance of "environmental injustice." However, these studies tend to employ methods that fail to adequately control for proximity between environmentally hazardous sites and nearby residential populations. By using GIS and applying methods increasingly used in environmental inequality research that better control for proximity, we conduct a comprehensive reassessment of racial inequality in the distribution of the nation 's hazardous waste facilities. We compare the magnitude of racial disparities found with those of prior studies and test competing racial, economic, and sociopolitical explanations for why such disparities exist. We find that the magnitude of racial disparities around hazardous waste facilities is much greater than what previous national studies have reported. We also find these disparities persist even when controlling for economic and sociopolitical variables, suggesting that factors uniquely associated with race, such as racial targeting, housing discrimination, or other race-related factors are associated with the location of the nation's hazardous waste facilities. We further conclude that the more recent methods for controlling for proximity yield more consistent and definitive results than those used previously, and therefore argue for their wider utilization in environmental inequality research. Keywords: environmental justice, environmental inequality, environmental racism, racial inequality, hazardous waste, GIS.




Published as Mohai, Paul and Robin Saha. 2007. “Racial Inequality in the Distribution of Hazardous Waste: A National-Level Reassessment.” Social Problems 54(3): 343-370. © 2007 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on [JSTOR (] or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,