This project aims to address several limitations associated with current environmental justice research and practice, and advance knowledge of social and spatial influences on residential exposure to environmental hazards. The research involves parallel analyses of two high-impact hazards?air pollution and flooding?conducted in the two largest urban areas on the U.S. Gulf Coast: Houston, Texas and Miami, Florida. Key questions to be investigated include: How do factors such as risk mitigation, locational benefits, and household decision-making processes, which have received little attention in environmental justice research, influence relationships between social vulnerability and hazard exposure? How do hazard attributes and contextual factors influence relationships between social vulnerability and hazard exposure? A quantitative phase of research will integrate data from a social survey of 1,000 households with neighborhood level data to examine multilevel determinants of hazard exposure. A qualitative phase will rely on interviews with a subset of survey participants to provide insight into decision-making processes that underpin patterns of hazard exposure. A comparative phase will replicate analyses for multiple air pollution and flood risk variables to specify the influence of hazard attributes (e.g., frequency/magnitude, suddenness of onset) on spatial relationships between social vulnerability and hazard exposure. A final contextual phase will analyze each city?s historical geography to facilitate explanation of differences in findings between the study sites. The project will provide a comparative, multilevel, multi-method framework for modeling residential exposure to environmental hazards, and transform current understandings of factors contributing to environmental and social injustices.
The results of the project will enhance public knowledge of environmental risks, inform practitioner communities, contribute to education, and increase the participation of underrepresented groups in hazards research and practice. Education and research training opportunities will be provided to students from underrepresented groups at the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of South Florida at Tampa. Project data and findings will be disseminated via multiple outlets in English and Spanish. Partnerships with the Houston and Miami geographic education communities will be formed and project data and results will be translated into learning modules for use in high school geography classrooms. Finally, press releases will ensure broad utilization of project data and products, which will be made accessible via a project website.