Examining Rural Environmental Injustice: An Analysis of Ruralness, Class, Race, and Gender On the Presence of Landfills Across the United States

Clare Cannon

Abstract


Landfills are linked to major forms of environmental harms, such as water contamination, production of greenhouse gases, and accumulation of toxins in human and natural systems. The presence of hazardous waste landfills has been shown to be co-located in rural communities, particularly in poor communities of color. This analysis examines the key relationships between the presence of 93% of all landfills other than hazardous—construction and demolotion (C&D), industrial, and municipal—and social inequality, a question as yet unexamined in the academic literature. Analyzing secondary data compiled into a unique dataset, the author examines associations among ruralness, race, class, gender, disaster occurrences, and the presence of a non-hazardous waste landfill across the 48 contiguous United States. Findings suggest that similar to research on hazardous waste landfills, nonhazardous waste landfills are more likely to occur in counties with higher percentages of poverty and people of color. Furthermore, using the USDA RuralUrban Continuum, more urban areas have a ten times greater likelihood of hosting a hazardous waste landfill compared to the most rural areas. Results further indicate that counties with a greater percentage of single female-headed households in poverty have greater odds that a landfill will be present. Findings indicate the importance of investigating multiple landfill types.

Keywords: amenity migration, community making, rural community development

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.

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