Helping those like us or harming those unlike us: Illuminating social processes leading to environmental injustice

Adam Eckerd, Heather Campbell, Yushim Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Several theories have been proposed to explain societal environmental injustices. Studies based on standard statistical methods and empirical data are often limited in testing some of these theories. This is especially true when some potential reasons (eg, racism) for unjust environmental outcomes are invidious, and even individual-level methods (eg, surveys) are unlikely to be effective in detecting them. We use agent-based modeling to explore the circumstances under which racially defined environmental injustice occurs in a society. We test three competing theories of an environmental disamenity's location decision: cost factors alone, benign intention for the majority population, or malign intention for the minority population, along with three scenarios of residential similarity preferences. The simulation demonstrates that a purely neoclassical world-one in which firms and residents care only about costs-does not lead to environmental injustice. Nor does a similar world in which disamenity-producing firms seek to locate away from majority residents. Instead, two conditions led to societal environmental injustice: when disamenity-producing firms aim to locate near minorities or when residents prefer to live near other residents like themselves. In our model, a race-conscious society rather than just a collection of race-conscious firms produced significant levels of environmental injustice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-970
Number of pages26
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Planning and Design
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


  • Agent-based model
  • Discrimination
  • Environmental justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Architecture
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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