The Problem with Environmental Justice Studies (And How Hedonics Can Help)

  • Diane Hite

Focus on environmental justice has intensified since President Clinton issued an executive order in February, 1994 requiring that all government agencies investigate the potential impact of any proposed policy on the environment of disadvantaged classes. Bullard (1996) broadly defines environmental justice as providing equal environmental and health protection under governmental laws and regulations. Specifically, environmental inequity is associated with unequal application of environmental and other social regulations, unequal exposure to environmental hazards, improper risk assessment, exclusionary zoning, and exclusionary practices that prevent minorities from participating in environmental decision making. It has been clearly demonstrated that better community organization and decisionmaking is a powerful factor in preventing sitings of noxious facilities (Berry 2003), and access to information is critical in this effort (Kellogg and Mathur 2003; Shapiro 2005).

This paper is organized as follows: first, I present an exhaustive review of the seminal and current literature on environmental justice, predominantly from a sociological and economic point of view; next I present the foundations for applying hedonic techniques to housing data to measure the distribution of environmental quality in neighborhoods; then I discuss further shortcomings of the proposed he- donic methods and suggest some additional ways to refine the aforementioned models using recent contributions in econometrics, as well as provide concluding comments.


Environmental Quality House Price Price Discrimination Environmental Justice Census Block Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderton DL, Oakes JM, Eagan KL (1997) Environmental equity in superfund - Demographics of the discovery and prioritization of abandoned toxic sites. Evaluation review 21: 3-26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Banzhaf SH, Walsh RP (2006) Do people vote with their feet? - An empirical test of environmental gentrification. Discussion Paper 06-10, Resources for the future, Washingto DC, available at
  3. Anselin L, Lozano N (2006) Spatial econometric aspects of the consideration of submarkets in hedonic house price models. Selected paper, North american regional science council annual meeting, Toronto, CAGoogle Scholar
  4. Baden BM, Coursey DL (2002) The locality of waste sites within the city of Chicago: a demographic, social, and economic analysis. Resource and energy economics 24: 53-93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baumol WJ (1986) Superfairness: applications and theory. The MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Bayer P, Keohane N, Timmins C (2006). Migration and hedonic valuation: the case of air quality, social science research network, Working paper W12106, NBER, Cambridge, United States, available at
  7. Bayer P, McMillan R, Rueben KS (2004) An equilibrium model of sorting in an urban housing market. Social science research network, Working paper W10865, NBER, Cambridge, United States, available at
  8. Been V (1994) Locally undesirable land uses in minority neighborhoods - disproportionate siting or market dynamics. Yale Law Journal 103: 1383-1422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Been V (1993) What’s fairness got to do with it - environmental justice and the siting of locally undesirable land uses. Cornell Law Review 78: 1001-1085Google Scholar
  10. Berry GR (2003) Organizing against multinational corporate power in cancer alley: the activist community as primary stakeholder. Organization and environment 16: 3-33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Boerner C, Lambert T (1995) Environmental injustice. Public interest 118: 61-82Google Scholar
  12. Bouwes NW, Hassur SM, Shapiro MD (2001) Empowerment through risk-related information: EPA’s risk screening environmental indicators project. Working papers, Political economy research institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MAGoogle Scholar
  13. Boxall PC, Chan WH, McMillan ML (2005) The impact of oil and natural gas facilities on rural residential property values: a spatial hedonic analysis. Resource and energy economics 27: 248-269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brasington DM, Hite D (2006) A mixed index approach to identifying hedonic price models. Louisiana State University, Department of economics and Auburn University, Department of agricultural economics and rural sociology, Social science research network, available at
  15. Brasington DM, Hite D (2005) Demand for environmental quality: a spatial hedonic analysis. Regional science and urban economics 35: 57-82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bullard RD (1996) Environmental justice: it’s more than waste facility siting. Social science quarterly 77: 493-499Google Scholar
  17. Buzzelli M, Jerrett M (2004) Racial gradients of ambient air pollution exposure in Hamilton, Canada. Environment and planning A 36: 1855-1876CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cameron TA, Crawford GD (2003) Superfund taint and neighborhood change: ethnicity, age distributions, and household structure. University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2003-38, University of Oregon Economics DepartmentGoogle Scholar
  19. Cohen DA, Spear S, Scribner R, Mason K, Kissinger P, Wildgen J (2000) Broken windows and the risk of gonorrhea. American Journal of public health 90: 230-236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cohen JP, Coughlin CC (2006) Spatial hedonic models of airport noise, proximity, and housing prices. Working papers, Federal reserve bank of St. Louis, pp 2006-2026Google Scholar
  21. Cutler DM, Glaeser EL, Vigdor JL (1999) The rise and decline of the American ghetto. Journal of political economy 107: 455-506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. De Parisot C (2007) Property value impacts and risk perceptions: a hedonic analysis of Anniston, Alabama. Masters thesis, Auburn University, Auburn, USGoogle Scholar
  23. De Parisot C, Ho SC, Hite D (2006) Determinants of risk perception and property value impacts associated with the solutia PCB plant and the Anniston chemical warhead incinerator: results of a direct mail survey. Selected paper, Auburn, AL, SERA 30 Annual Meeting, MayGoogle Scholar
  24. Derezinski DD, Lacy MG, Stretesky PB (2003) Chemical accidents in the United States, 1990-1996. Social science quarterly 84: 122-143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Epple D, Sieg H (1999) Estimating equilibrium models of local jurisdictions. Journal of political economy 107: 645-681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Foley D (1967) Resource allocation and the public sector. Yale economic essays 7: 45-98Google Scholar
  27. Frumkin H (2005) Health, equity, and the built environment. Environmental health perspectives 113: A290-A291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gabriel S, Rosenthal S (1989) Household location and race. Review of economics and statistics 71: 240-249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gabriel S, Rosenthal S (1991) Credit rationing, race and the mortgage market. Journal of urban economics 29: 371-379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gayer T (2000) Neighborhood demographics and the distribution of hazardous waste risks: an instrumental variables estimation. Journal of regulatory economics 17: 131-155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Glickman TS (1994) Measuring environmental equity with geographical information systems. Renewable resources journal 116: 17-21Google Scholar
  32. Goetz SJ, Kemlage DJ (1996) TSD facilities location and environmental justice. Review of regional studies 26: 285-300Google Scholar
  33. Hamilton JT (1993) Politics and social costs: estimating the impact of collective action on hazardous waste facilities. Rand journal of economics 24: 101-125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hamilton JT (1995) Testing for environmental racism: prejudice, profits, political power? Journal of policy analysis and management 14: 107-132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Helfand GE, Peyton LJ (1999) A conceptual model of environmental justice. Social science quarterly 80: 68-83Google Scholar
  36. Hite D (2000) A random utility model of environmental equity. Growth and change 31: 40-58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hite D (2006a) A hedonic model of environmental justice. Working paper, available at
  38. Hite D (2006b) Out of market transactions as neighborhood quality indicators in hedonic house price models. Working paper, Auburn University, Department of agricultural economics and rural sociology, Auburn, USGoogle Scholar
  39. Hite D (2006c) Welfare impacts of an environmental disamenity: a survival model approach. Working paper, available at
  40. Ho SC (2007) Three essays on toxic chemical releases, house values, health and labor productivity. Ph.D. dissertation, Auburn University, Auburn, USGoogle Scholar
  41. Ho SC, Hite D (2006) Economic impact of environmental health risks on house values in southeast region: a county-level analysis. Working paper, available at
  42. Hockman EM, Morris CM (1998) Progress towards environmental justice: a five-year perspective of toxicity, race and poverty in Michigan, 1990-1995. Journal of environmental planning and management 41: 157-176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hokby S, Soderqvist T (2003) Elasticities of demand and willingness to pay for environmental services in sweden. Environmental and resource economics 26: 361-383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Hughes MA, Madden JF (1991) Residential segregation and the economic status of black workers. Journal of urban economics 29: 28-49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ioannides Y, Zabel JE (2007) Interactions, neighborhood selection, and housing demand. Forthcoming in Journal of urban economicsGoogle Scholar
  46. Jacobsen JO, Hengartner NW, Louis TA (2005) Inequity measures for evaluations of environmental justice: a case study of close proximity to highways in New York city. Environment and planning A 37: 21-43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Jauregui A (2006) Three essays on real estate, environmental, and urban economics using the hedonic price model technique. Ph.D. dissertation, Auburn University, Auburn, USGoogle Scholar
  48. Kellogg WA, Mathur A (2003) Environmental justice and information technologies: over coming the information-access paradox in urban communities. Public administration review 63: 573-585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kiel KA, Zabel JE (1996) House price differentials in U.S. cities: household and neighborhood racial effects, Journal of housing economics 5: 143-165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kim CW Philipps TT, Anselin L (2003) Measuring the benefits of air quality improvement: a spatial hedonic approach. Journal of environmental economics and management 45: 24-39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kriesel W, Centner TJ, Keeler AG (1996) Neighborhood exposure to toxic releases: are there racial inequities? Growth and change 27: 479-499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lambert T, Boerner C (1997) Environmental inequity: economic causes, economic solutions. Yale Journal on regulation 14: 195-234Google Scholar
  53. Loh P, Sugerman-Brozan J (2002) environmental justice organizing for environmental health: case study on asthma and diesel exhaust in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Annals of the american academy of political and social science 584: 110-124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Maasoumi E, Millimet DL (2001) Socio-economic composition and uniform partial ranking of us county-level environmental quality. Departmental working papers 0510, Department of economics, Southern Methodist University, pp 1-26Google Scholar
  55. Machado J (2005) Counterfactual decomposition of changes in wage distributions using quantile regression. Journal of applied econometrics 20: 445-465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Mennis J (2002) Using geographic information systems to create and analyze statistical surfaces of population and risk for environmental justice analysis. Social science quarterly 83: 281-297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Millimet DL, Slottje D (1999) The distribution of pollution in the United States: an environmental Gini approach. Departmental working papers 9902, Department of economics, Southern Methodist University, pp 1-31Google Scholar
  58. Mitchell G, Dorling D (2003) An environmental justice analysis of british air quality. Environment and planning A 35: 909-929CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Mohai P (1996) Environmental justice or analytic justice? reexamining historical hazardous waste landfill siting patterns in metropolitan Texas. Social science quarterly 77: 500-507Google Scholar
  60. Morello-Frosch R (2002) Discrimination and the political economy of environmental inequality. Environment and planning C: Government and policy 20: 477-496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Morello-Frosch R, Pastor M, Sadd J (2002) Integrating environmental justice and the precautionary principle in research and policy making: the case of ambient air toxics exposures and health risks among schoolchildren in Los Angeles. Annals of the american academy of political and social science 584: 47-68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Norgaard KM (2006) We don’t really want to know: environmental justice and socially organized denial of global warming in Norway. Organization and environment 19: 347-370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Nothaft FE, Perry VG (2002) Do mortgage rates vary by neighborhoods? Implications for Loan pricing and redlining. Journal of housing economics 11: 244-265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Oaxaca R (1973) Male-female wage differentials in urban labor markets. International economic review: 693-709Google Scholar
  65. Ondrich J, Ross SL, Yinger J (2000) How common is housing discrimination? Improving on traditional measures. Journal of urban economics 47: 470-500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Page M (1995) Racial and ethnic discrimination in urban housing markets: evidence from a recent audit study. Journal of urban economics 38: 183-206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Pazner EA, Schmeidler D (1978) Egalitarian equivalent allocations: a new concept of economic equity. Quarterly journal of economics 92: 671-687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Pearce J, Kingham S, Zewar-Reza P (2006) Every breath you take? Environmental justice and air pollution in Christchurch, New Zealand. Environment and planning A 38: 919-938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Platt HL (2005) Shock cities: the environmental transformation and reform of Manchester and Chicago, Chicago and London. University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  70. Rawls J (1971) A theory of justice. Harvard University press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  71. Rosen S (1974) Hedonic prices and implicit markets: product differentiation in pure equilibrium. Journal of political economy 82: 34-55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Sadd J, Pastor M, Boer JT, Snyder LD (1999) Every breath you take…: the demographics of toxic air releases in southern California. Economic development quarterly 13: 107-123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sampson RJ, Groves WB (1989) Community structure and crime: testing social disorganization theory. American journal of sociology 94: 774-802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Shapiro MD (2005) Equity and information: information regulation, environmental justice, and risks from toxic chemicals. Journal of policy analysis and management 24: 373-398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Stretesky PB, Lynch MJ (1999) Environmental justice and the predictions of distance to accidental chemical releases in Hillsborough County, Florida. Social science quarterly 80: 830-846Google Scholar
  76. Strohm LA (2002) Pollution havens and the transfer of environmental risk. Global environmental politics 2: 29-36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Varian HR (1974) Equity, envy and efficiency. Journal of economic theory 9: 63-91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Wilson JQ, Kelling GL (1982) Broken windows: the police and neighborhood safety. Atlantic monthly (March): 29-38Google Scholar
  79. Yandle T, Burton D (1996) Reexamining environmental justice: a statistical analysis of historical hazardous waste landfill siting patterns in metropolitan Texas. Social science quarterly 77: 477-492Google Scholar
  80. Yinger J (1986) Measuring racial discrimination with fair housing audits: caught in the act. American economic review 76: 881-893Google Scholar
  81. Yinger J (1997) Cash in your face: the cost of racial and ethnic discrimination in housing. Journal of urban economics 42: 339-365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Zenou Y, Boccard N (2000) Racial discrimination and redlining in cities. Journal of urban economics 48: 260-285CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane Hite
    • 1
  1. 1.Auburn UniversityAuburnUS

Personalised recommendations