WASHINGTON, DC—Resources for the Future (RFF) today released a new installment of Resources Radio: “The Economics of Environmental Justice, with Samuel Stolper and Catherine Hausman.”
In this episode, host Daniel Raimi talks with Samuel Stolper and Catherine Hausman, environmental economists and professors at the University of Michigan. Stolper and Hausman discuss a recent study they coauthored, which investigates the communities most burdened by misinformation on pollution. As scientific knowledge has grown, more harmful air pollutants have been discovered, and smaller amounts of known air pollutants have proven more detrimental to public health than initial assessments have suggested. Even though everyone is affected by information that underestimates the health damages of air pollution, Stolper and Hausman’s research suggests that these “information failures” disproportionately impact low-income communities and people of color, who are more likely to already live near sources of pollution.
Notable quotes from the podcast:
- Limited choices available to low-income families: “So, low-income families obviously face really binding budget constraints. They need to make difficult choices about where to spend their money, and that can mean choosing a cheaper house in a neighborhood that has more pollution if it means more money is left over to spend on utilities and food and transportation, and other really necessary, important things.” (6:27)
- Growing body of knowledge on air pollution: “If you look at the toxic release inventory in the United States, which has expanded over time, the implication is that we learn that there are more pollutants that are harmful, and that maybe some of those pollutants are more harmful than we previously thought.” (10:05)
- Consequences of “information failures”: “The Environmental Protection Agency has an ambient lead standard on the books, and it has for a lot of years. It has changed precisely once over the last 20 years, and that was in 2008, and the standard was tightened. It dropped from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter … Who is bearing the burden of that misinformation? What are the consequences of us having been wrong?” (10:36)
- Vulnerable communities disproportionately impacted by pollution: “We see, and we tend to see, that the poor and people of color have a disproportionate exposure to that pollution. Whether that’s because of sorting on income; … or discrimination; or even just firms trying to minimize their costs and so seeking cheap land or labor, causing polluting firms to co-locate with people with less resources—any of those causes may produce disproportionate exposure. Information, or misinformation in this case, interacts with all of them, and in our examples and in our models, actually exacerbates that disproportionate exposure.” (19:32)
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