Racial disparities in pollution exposure and employment at US industrial facilities

Oct 01, 2018
Michael Ash and James K. Boyce



Debate about regulation of industrial polluters often concerns a presumed trade-off between negative pollution impacts and positive employment opportunities. These arguments are especially sensitive among communities of racial/ethnic minorities, who disproportionately suffer exposure to pollution and lack access to high-quality employment. We combine US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data on toxics exposure with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data on employment to examine how the racial/ethnic distribution of industrial employment corresponds to the distribution of exposure to air toxics emitted by the same facilities. The share of pollution risk accruing to minority groups generally exceeds their share of employment and greatly exceeds their share of higher paying jobs. In aggregate, we find no evidence that facilities that create higher pollution risk for surrounding communities provide more jobs.

Read the full article in PNAS.

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