For the People, By the People

Disamenity Impact Zones 1940 to 2000. Researchers performed a statistical analysis for the intersection between race, income, and the location of disamenities. Specifically, for each decade, the researchers looked at neighborhoods that were close to the zoning special-use permits approved for that decade (the disamenities), surrounded by other neighborhoods close to special-use permits. These neighborhoods can be described as "low distance" zones on the map because they are close to the disamenities during that decade. Researchers then isolated those neighborhoods that are farthest from zoning variance approvals surrounded by other neighborhoods that are a long way from those disamenities. These neighborhoods were called "high distance" zones, because they are a long distance from the disamenities during that decade. Some neighborhoods fall into a middle category and might be called neutral neighborhoods. In the maps, the low-distance (high-impact) zones are lighter and the high-distance (low-impact) zones are darker.
Charles Lord and Keaton Norquist (2010)

Conventional wisdom often holds that concern for the environmental is concentrated among residents of wealthier and predominantly white communities who can afford to make quality of life issues, such as environmental quality, a high priority. Poorer, ethnically mixed communities are assumed to be more preoccupied with satisfying basic needs than with protecting the environment. This conventional wisdom assumes that these disempowered groups consider environmental quality a "luxury good" to be provided after basic needs are met.

However, BES comparisons of public attitudes across income levels and ethnic groups have shown that environmental concerns are not the preserve of affluent white neighborhoods. BES researchers found that residents of both wealthy and poor urban communities share concern for environmental quality. For example, a telephone survey of 1274 randomly selected residents of the Baltimore region found no statistically significant difference between residents' awareness of or concern for air quality despite a wide range of household income. Clearly, people in poorer communities do perceive a problem when the condition of their environment degrades and threatens their health, just like their wealthier counterparts.

Addressing a fundamental question in environmental justice research, the BES researchers further examined the question of which comes first, inequitable patterns of environmental amenities and disamenities, or the patterns of racial settlement. By mapping the history of neighborhood change and zoning requests and permits for Baltimore City from 1920 to the present, the researchers showed conclusively that there has been a history of racial bias in locating environmental disamenities closer to predominantly African-American communities than white communities. These findings highlight the fact that while concern for the environment may be a shared concern among diverse urban communities, access to and the sharing of public resources and protections may be not equal.

Correlation Between Race and Distance to Disamenities. Close analysis shows that for each decade between 1940 and 2000, there was a correlation between race and the distance to disamenities. Specifically, the higher the percentage of African-American residents, the closer to disamenities, and the higher the percentage of white residents the further away those neighborhoods are from disamenities. Beginning in 1970, the correlation between race and proximity to disamenities begins to weaken, and in 2000 there is no correlation.
Charles Lord and Keaton Nordquist (2010).
For further reading: 
Boone, C.G.; Buckley, G.B.; Grove, J.M.; Sister, C. 2009. Parks and People: an environmental justice inquiry in Baltimore, Maryland. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 99(4):1-21.
Lord, C. and Norquist, K. 2010. "Cities as Emergent Systems: Race as a Rule in Organized Complexity." Environmental Law. 40:551-597.
Buckley, G.L. and C.G. Boone. 2011. "To promote the material and moral welfare of the community": Neighborhood Improvement Associations in Baltimore, Maryland, 1900 -- 1945." In: Environmental and Social Justice in the City: Historical Perspectives, eds. R. Rodger and G. Massard-Guilbaud. Cambridge: White Horse Press, 43-65.
For further information: 
Morgan Grove,
Chris Boone,
Contact email: 

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer