WashU Affiliated Authors: Melanie S. Hammer, Randall V. Martin, Aaron Van Donkelaar (all Department of Energy, Environmental, and Chemical Engineering)
Abstract: We investigate socioeconomic disparities in air quality at public schools in the contiguous US using high resolution estimates of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations. We find that schools with higher proportions of people of color (POC) and students eligible for the federal free or reduced lunch program, a proxy for poverty level, are associated with higher pollutant concentrations. For example, we find that the median annual NO2 concentration for White students, nationally, was 7.7 ppbv, compared to 9.2 ppbv for Black and African American students. Statewide and regional disparities in pollutant concentrations across racial, ethnic, and poverty groups are consistent with nationwide results, where elevated NO2 concentrations were associated with schools with higher proportions of POC and higher levels of poverty. Similar, though smaller, differences were found in PM2.5 across racial and ethnic groups in most states. Racial, ethnic, and economic segregation across the rural-urban divide is likely an important factor in pollution disparities at US public schools. We identify distinct regional patterns of disparities, highlighting differences between California, New York, and Florida. Finally, we highlight that disparities exist not only across urban and non-urban lines but also within urban environments.
Citation/DOI: Cheeseman, M. J., Ford, B., Anenberg, S. C., Cooper, M. J., Fischer, E. V., Hammer, M. S., et al. (2022). Disparities in air pollutants across racial, ethnic, and poverty groups at US public schools. GeoHealth, 6, e2022GH000672. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022GH000672