The Park Place Economist


In recent decades, there’s been growing awareness surrounding the environmental justice movement, in which historically marginalized groups are bringing attention to their unequal exposure to environmental hazards and unequal access to environmental benefits. This paper ties together environmental injustice and economic theories by drawing from the economic concept of negative externalities to explore the experience of a marginalized group in Chicago. The marginalized group and the environmental hazards they face as a result of consumptive externalities is those of a lower socioeconomic status facing exposure to poor air quality. Using geographic distributions, scatterplots, and OLS regressions, this paper found that socioeconomic status and O3 exposure have some explanatory weight in understanding the average annual deaths from heart disease and chronic lower respiratory disease, respectively, for residents of different communities in Chicago. Other variables were of little statistical significance, which may be due to flaws in data collection, examined variables, and project design. In the future, other researchers should consider more air quality data on a smaller time frame, with a more robust measurement of negative health outcomes.