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Keywords:

  • Gender;
  • race;
  • risk perception;
  • environmental equity

This paper reports the results of a national survey in which perceptions of environmental health risks were measured for 1275 white and 214 nonwhite persons. The results showed that white women perceived risks to be much higher than did white men, a result that is consistent with previous studies. However, this gender difference was not true of nonwhite women and men, whose perceptions of risk were quite similar. Most striking was the finding that white males tended to differ from everyone else in their attitudes and perceptions–on average, they perceived risks as much smaller and much more acceptable than did other people. These results suggest that sociopolitical factors such as power, status, alienation, and trust are strong determiners of people's perception and acceptance of risks.