Social Sciences


Environmental racism explores how pollution-producing industries are systematically constructed in and around poor, minority communities. Exposure to pollutants over time negatively impacts resident well being and quality of life while economic trends limit opportunities to relocated. Kentucky provides a valuable opportunity for exploring environmental racism. The state’s long dependency on coal extraction has created environmental opportunities for studying this phenomenon amid deindustrialization throughout the region. This study examines how changes in air pollution (a proxy measure of environmental toxins) correlates to poverty, quality of life, and resident racial demographics. Results indicate that Kentucky counties with higher air pollution had lower poverty and higher quality of life overall while having a lower percentage of white residents. These findings offer an unexpected new perspective on the conflicting relationship between increased economic development, declining poverty, and increased quality of life amid concerns over the creation of environmental pollutants.

Mentor Name

James N. Maples

Mentor Email