Pollution Prophylaxis? Social Capital and Environmental Inequality*

Kerry Ard*, Malcolm H Fairbrother

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
219 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: One major theory of environmental inequality is that firms follow a political path of least resistance when locating polluting facilities in low-income and minority communities. Such communities, this theory suggests, lack the social capital that allows others to keep such facilities at bay. We test this argument.

Methods: We investigate whether communities across the U.S. are located further from stationary sources of airborne toxins depending on their levels of social capital.

Results: At some scales, we found that communities with more of some types of social capital do indeed tend to be located further from such facilities, though the differences are slight. We also found that, by some measures, minority communities possess no less social capital than others, and that controlling for differences in social capital barely attenuates the associations between demographics and proximity.

Conclusion: The theory that differences in social capital explain environmental inequality is not supported.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-607
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date19 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Gun Politics


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