Environmental equity: Linking population distribution with environmental risk distribution

Feng Liu, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation examines theories and methods of linking population distribution with environmental risk distribution in a framework of environmental equity. I first visit relevant social theories (i.e., economics, location, risks, and neighborhood changes) and deduce from them some hypotheses about the statics and dynamics of environmental equity. Then, I critically review some methodological issues in environmental equity studies, including unit of analysis, risk measurements, population measurements, and statistical methods. I argue that researchers should pay attention to the spatial interaction processes that shape the relationship between population distribution and environmental risk distribution in a city, where locators make their location choices based on various trade-offs in a multiplicity of markets. I also review the paradigms of environmental risk modeling and location modeling, and discuss the possibilities and difficulties for them to be incorporated into a risk-based equity analysis. Integrating the paradigms of risk assessment and location analysis, I propose an analytical framework for analyzing environmental equity. As a part of this framework, a spatial interaction modeling approach is presented for testing the statics of environmental equity. This approach takes into account the interactions among environmental risks, residential location, employment location, land use, and transportation, by means of a multivariate nonlinear spatial interaction model and GIS. Applications of this approach to the Houston and Los Angeles areas produce different results. While these investigations are static in nature, I examine the dynamics of environmental equity in the context of the communities hosting solid waste management facilities in Houston, where a recent study found that market dynamics contributed to the current environmental inequity. I propose a statistical approach for testing the dynamics hypothesis. The test using this approach produces results contrary to the previous study. Furthermore, a preliminary analysis examines alternative hypotheses derived from theories of neighborhood change. Finally, I go beyond a city and examine my research issue in the region of New York and Philadelphia, where there are serious regional impacts of urban ozone plumes on the downwind areas. The findings deviate from the hypotheses prescribed by location theory, but they are consistent with what could be expected from theories of risk perception.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development|Environmental science|Geography

Recommended Citation

Liu, Feng, "Environmental equity: Linking population distribution with environmental risk distribution" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9627959.