Whose Risk in Philadelphia? Proximity to Unequally Hazardous Industrial Facilities


  • *Direct correspondence to Diane Sicotte, Department of Culture and Communication, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut St., Bldg. 47, Rm. 221, Philadelphia PA 19104 〈diane.sicotte@drexel.edu〉. The authors accept full responsibility for all errors of omission and commission and agree to share all data and coding with interested parties. The authors thank Jeremy Mennis, Bill Easterling, Tanya Nieri, Doug Porpora, Colin Polsky, and the reviewers for their helpful advice.


Objective. Few researchers have investigated who lives near the worst polluting facilities. In this study, we test for disparate impact from hazardous industrial and infrastructure facilities on racial/ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged, the working class, and manufacturing workers in the nine-county Philadelphia MSA.

Methods. Hazard Scores for Philadelphia-area facilities in EPA's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) database were calculated and facilities mapped onto Census block group maps. One-kilometer buffer zones around facilities were created and intersected with Census data on population inside and outside buffers. After correcting for spatial autocorrelation, we tested for relationships between Hazard Scores and characteristics of people near facilities using multivariate regression.

Results. Hazard Scores rose along with percents black, Hispanic, disadvantaged, and employed in manufacturing in some (but not all) counties.

Conclusions. Among those living near polluting facilities, minorities, the poor, and manufacturing workers lived near the most hazardous, constituting a disparate impact on these groups.