Whiteness causes unfair air pollution

Yet again, another bumbling social science study getting widespread media sanctification. this one fingers whites for polluting the air that minorities breathe.

The study, "Inequity in consumption of goods and services adds to racial–ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure," published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is more political and racial hogwash so often found in the social sciences.

(If you're confused by the study--as any rational person should be--here's an approving CNN attempt at a layman's explanation.)

One is left to conclude that the racial disparity between who produces air pollution and who breathes it is somehow more evidence of "white privilege" Or of white racist attitudes that blithely ignore racial disparities or, worse, causes them.

So let's take a closer look at the study.

One factor that the study ignores is this: Blacks disproportionately live in urban areas where air pollution is is greater. So, location likely is a more important variable than race. The study itself acknowledges this with this caution:

Still, questions remain about the spatial context of pollution inequity, its underlying causes, how best to address it, and its generalizability. For example, little is known about the “spatial scale” of inequity, such as whether consumers tend to live near to or far from the people exposed to the pollution resulting from their consumption. Further information on this issue would clarify whether this inequity could best be investigated and addressed at the city, state, or national level.

Another factor: Economics. The study's authors wave away the logical possibility of economic disparities between minorities and whites, as if

It was 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 1, 1957, when this picture was taken at State and Lake streets in downtown Chicago, but it might as well have been midnight as smog descended on the city and blotted out the sun. (Hardy Wieting, Chicago Tribune)

It was 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 1, 1957, when this picture was taken at State and Lake streets in downtown Chicago, but it might as well have been midnight as smog descended on the city and blotted out the sun. (Hardy Wieting, Chicago Tribune)

previous studies have give us "settled science" (as the left likes to describe it). Unfortunately, one of the studies the authors cite, "Socioeconomic Disparities and Air Pollution Exposure: a Global Review," concludes with this caution:

Overall, most North American studies have shown that areas where low-socioeconomic-status (SES) communities dwell experience higher concentrations of criteria air pollutants, while European research has been mixed. Research from Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world has shown a general trend similar to that of North America, but research in these parts of the world is limited.

The study also is only as good as the data that are used (e.g. census race and age data on a block-by-block  basis was not available). Try to follow the causation chain of evidence through its various twists and turns, and you  can only suspect the reliability of the relationship.

Then there's this from BlazeTV host Eric Bolling:

“Truth be told, Democrats run the most polluted cities in America,” he continued. “Wouldn’t the National Academy of Sciences be more accurate in their breakthrough study by concluding Democrats are air racists? Look, it’s junk science. Junk science begets junk conclusions. Junk conclusions beget junk political hackery.”

As I've said before, as a postgraduate Russell Sage Fellow in Social Science Writing at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, I can smell a politically motivated "study" based on biased ideological assumptions. It's time for practitioners of the soft scientists to spot and expose them for what they are.

dennis@dennisbyrne.net

www.dennisbyrne.net 

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Comments

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  • The solution is obvious: put huge wind turbines across the urban cityscape and blow the pollution to the suburbs and exurbia. It's green. It's clean. And the power generated can be free to urban residents that have the turbines in their backyards and city parks. (The north-side and upscale neighborhoods will use the Ted Kennedy Defense: NIMBY (we're special), so there will be no free electric for anybody north of Roosevelt Rd.

    There will have to be matching turbines in minority suburbs, such as Melrose Park and Bellwood and Robbins, to blow the pollution back to white suburbia or blow it forward to the corn belt.

    The Illinois Intersectional New Green Deal. JB is working on this right now.

  • Who to believe? The National Academy of Sciences or a Russell Sage Fellow in Social Science Writing at the University of Wisconsin at Madison?

  • In reply to jnorto:

    argumentum ad verecundiam

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    But relying on which opinion constitutes the fallacy?

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Yes, that is the point, jnorto.

  • Air pollution is color-blind, to echo Justice Harlan. It's a public health issue and should not be used as a wedge issue.

    BTW, Eric Bolling doesn't come into this discourse with clean hands, as they say in equity law.

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