Spatial patterns of air pollutants and social groups: a distributive environmental justice study in the phoenix metropolitan region of USA

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29 Scopus citations


Quantifying spatial distribution patterns of air pollutants is imperative to understand environmental justice issues. Here we present a landscape-based hierarchical approach in which air pollution variables are regressed against population demographics on multiple spatiotemporal scales. Using this approach, we investigated the potential problem of distributive environmental justice in the Phoenix metropolitan region, focusing on ambient ozone and particulate matter. Pollution surfaces (maps) are evaluated against the demographics of class, age, race (African American, Native American), and ethnicity (Hispanic). A hierarchical multiple regression method is used to detect distributive environmental justice relationships. Our results show that significant relationships exist between the dependent and independent variables, signifying possible environmental inequity. Although changing spatiotemporal scales only altered the overall direction of these relationships in a few instances, it did cause the relationship to become nonsignificant in many cases. Several consistent patterns emerged: people aged 17 and under were significant predictors for ambient ozone and particulate matter, but people 65 and older were only predictors for ambient particulate matter. African Americans were strong predictors for ambient particulate matter, while Native Americans were strong predictors for ambient ozone. Hispanics had a strong negative correlation with ambient ozone, but a less consistent positive relationship with ambient particulate matter. Given the legacy conditions endured by minority racial and ethnic groups, and the relative lack of mobility of all the groups, our findings suggest the existence of environmental inequities in the Phoenix metropolitan region. The methodology developed in this study is generalizable with other pollutants to provide a multi-scaled perspective of environmental justice issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-766
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Environmental justice
  • Ozone
  • PM
  • Phoenix metropolitan region
  • Scale effects
  • Spatiotemporal scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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