Plumbing poverty: hot spots of geographic inequality in U.S. household water insecurity

Authors: Shiloh Deitz*, University of Oregon, Katie Meehan, University of Oregon
Topics: Social Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Social Theory
Keywords: Household water insecurity, geographies of inequality, geographic weighted regression, plumbing incompleteness, human right to water, environmental injustice, American Community Survey, United States
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Household water insecurity is a recognized problem for sustainable and equitable human development. Previous research has identified key sociodemographic variables that explain poor infrastructure access for households, yet existing metrics lack a systematic consideration of geographic inequality and spatial variation. In advancing techniques to assess household water insecurity, this study argues that explicit consideration of space and geographic inequality must be prioritized in the development of cross-comparable metrics and measurement tools. To illustrate our argument, we use statistical and spatial analysis techniques to measure and model ‘plumbing incompleteness’ in the United States at the household level and across various geographic aggregations. First, we identify geographic ‘hot spots’ of household water insecurity in the United States, where household plumbing is falsely assumed to be ‘universal’ in its spatial reach. We then model the performance of sociodemographic covariates both at the household level and across the country. Our analysis demonstrates that space and scale clearly matter: while our results indicate a distinct racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic character of plumbing poverty in the United States, the strength of those factors is variable across the nation. Our results point to the uneven weight of sociodemographic explanation across space, thus identifying a clear need to incorporate spatial techniques in emerging efforts to measure and eliminate household water insecurity.

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