Assessment of Sociodemographic Disparities in Environmental Exposure Might be Erroneous due to Neighborhood Effect Averaging: Implications for Environmental Inequality Research

Authors: Junghwan Kim*, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mei-Po Kwan, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Environmental Science
Keywords: air pollution, environmental inequality, environmental justice, exposure, Los Angeles, the neighborhood effect averaging problem (NEAP)
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 16
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The neighborhood effect averaging problem (NEAP) is a major methodological problem that might affect the accuracy of assessments of individual exposure to mobility-dependent environmental factors (e.g., air/noise pollution, green/blue space, and food environment). Focusing on outdoor ground-level ozone as a major air pollutant, this paper examines the NEAP in the evaluation of sociodemographic disparities in people’s air pollution exposures in Los Angeles using one-day activity-travel diary data of 3,790 individuals. It addresses two questions: (1) How does the NEAP affect the evaluation of sociodemographic disparities in people’s air pollution exposures? (2) Which social groups with high residence-based exposures do not experience neighborhood effect averaging? The results of our spatial regression models indicate that assessments of sociodemographic disparities in people’s outdoor ground-level ozone exposures might be erroneous when people’s daily mobility is ignored because of the different manifestations of neighborhood effect averaging for different social/racial groups. The results of our spatial autologistic regression model reveal that non-workers (e.g., the unemployed, homemakers, the retired, and students) do not experience downward averaging: they have significantly lower odds of experiencing downward averaging that could have attenuated their high exposures experienced in their residential neighborhoods while traveling to other neighborhoods (thus, being doubly disadvantaged). Therefore, to avoid erroneous conclusions in environmental inequality research and ineffective public policies, it would be critical to take the NEAP into account in future studies of sociodemographic disparities related to mobility-dependent environmental factors.

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