Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Residential Proximity to Polluting Industrial Facilities: Evidence From the Americans’ Changing Lives Study

Objectives. We sought to demonstrate the advantages of using individual-level survey data in quantitative environmental justice analyses and to provide new evidence regarding racial and socioeconomic disparities in the distribution of polluting industrial facilities. Methods. Addresses of respondents in the baseline sample of the Americans' Changing Lives Study and polluting industrial facilities in the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory were geocoded, allowing assessments of distances between respondents' homes and polluting facilities. The associations between race and other sociodemographic characteristics and living within 1 mile (1.6 km) of a polluting facility were estimated via logistic regression. Results. Blacks and respondents at lower educational levels and, to a lesser degree, lower income levels were significantly more likely to live within a mile of a polluting facility. Racial disparities were especially pronounced in metropolitan areas of the Midwest and West and in suburban areas of the South. Conclusions. Our results add to the historical record demonstrating significant disparities in exposures to environmental hazards in the US population and provide a paradigm for studying changes over time in links to health.