Communities of color and low-income populations in the United States are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. Systemic discriminatory practices in past urban planning and housing policies, including redlining, have contributed to the development of cities and are associated with disproportionate environmental burdens in some communities to this day. To explore this issue, researchers developed the online Environmental Racism tool to enhance access to information on the unjust distribution of environmental hazards. The tool (1) visualizes the spatial variation in present-day environmental hazards and amenities within metropolitan communities across the United States and (2) compares this spatial variation to past spatial delineations of a discriminatory practice (i.e., redlining). The results of this analysis can help policymakers and community residents understand the links between historic discriminatory practices and current environmental inequities and identify hot spots of environmental burdens that can be targeted for environmental improvement efforts.

In an accompanying appendix, the researchers provide further background information on the tool, including discussions of how neighborhood environments affect population health and well-being, what is already known about the disproportionate burden of environmental hazards on certain populations and communities, and how the tool can be used to view these data within the context of a national reckoning on systemic racism.

Research conducted by

Funding for this research was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted in the Community Health and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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