Air Pollution Emissions and Gentrification Indicators in Seattle: An Environmental Justice Account

Authors: Jonah White*, Michigan State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Environment
Keywords: air pollution, gentrification, geographically weighted regression, Seattle
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Previous studies have investigated the pattern of air pollution emissions across a wide range of urban contexts and generally conclude that marginalized communities, according to their race/ethnic characteristics and low-income status, are disproportionately saddled with higher volumes of total air emissions and associated toxicity levels. Such findings are increasingly relevant for establishing a relationship with gentrification pressures, especially when these same marginalized communities observe a reduction in toxic air pollution but also witness growing numbers of creative class residents and experience inflated housing costs and property values. Data from census reports are combined with variables from the Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) database to examine the effect of air pollution emissions on a selection of commonly used gentrification indicators in the context of Seattle, Washington between 1990 and 2014-2018. A variety of urban processes, including the relationship between air pollution and gentrification, do not occur evenly across the urban landscape and geographically weighted regression (GWR) is used to account for spatial non-stationarity in the predictor variables. The GWR models perform better than global regression models and highlight specific locations where a particular social class associated with gentrification pressure benefitted from reductions in toxic air pollution in Seattle. The results also reveal how toxic air pollution continues to be unequally distributed in one of the most sustainable cities in the United States.

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