A contemporary policy analyst accustomed to the ways of the micro economic model might admit that the effects of certain types of environmental regulation, (the placement of hazardous waste facilities, for example) might disproportionately impact the poor because it is economically prudent to locate facilities where land is the cheapest. The harsh reality of this strategy is that poor people are more likely to live in poorer sections of the country; thus, the likelihood of being closer to such a facility is higher than that of the general populace. Thus, under this hypothesis, environmental equity is classbased and dictated by economic considerations. Racial implications would, therefore, depend on a correlation between race and poverty.
Unfortunately, this picture of class inequity is only partial. Environmental inequity also entails racial discrimination. Recent studies reveal that, even when an analyst accounts for class bias, environmental programs have had a disproportionately adverse impact on racial minorities. This race bias cannot be discounted and the scholars who have revealed its existence have significantly changed the way we must think about environmental regulation in particular and social regulation in general.
This paper attempts to answer the following question: Why does environmental regulation show class and race bias? In answering that question, this paper argues that both structural and systemic problems pervade environmental decision-making and contribute to disadvantaging the dis-empowered.
Tomain, Joseph P., "The Four Failures of the Political Economy" (1992). Faculty Articles and Other Publications. 133.