Superfund, Hedonics, and the Scales of Environmental Justice

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Noonan, Douglas S.
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The environmental justice (EJ) movement now occupies a prominent position in environmental policy. EJ is a core principle for thousands of grassroots environmental organizations, is the subject of a Presidential executive order and an office in the EPA, and recently served to frame how the nation viewed the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This paper contributes to the research on environmental equity by (a) improving on traditional environmental justice research by incorporating results from economic analyses, and (b) presenting new evidence on the distributional equity of Superfund site locations at multiple scales. Choosing the correct spatial scale for analysis continues to vex empirical EJ researchers. The modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP), often simplified as a matter of aggregation bias, has resisted solutions to date. The approach taken here turns to the well-established hedonic price literature to identify appropriate scales of analysis. Linking these two literatures holds the promise of practically addressing one of the larger obstacles to advancing empirical EJ claims. The utility of hedonic analyses for EJ research is demonstrated on a comprehensive, nationwide dataset of Superfund sites at four (nested) geographic scales. The results add to the EJ literature by performing multi-scale analyses nationally as well as focused on a specific site.
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