This article was originally published here
Soc Sci Med. 2021 Jun 11;282:114108. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114108. Online ahead of print.
Fine particulate matter is a serious health threat and exposures are particularly damaging for children. The environmental justice (EJ) literature shows that racial/ethnic minority communities experience disproportionate exposure to particulate pollution in the US. While important, those EJ studies tend to neglect people’s complex identities, including their nativity and their families’ generational histories of residence in the US. Yet there is growing interest in the intersection of immigrant populations and EJ. Our use of individual-level data enables examination of immigrant generational status by race/ethnicity, which provides insights on the intergenerational persistence of environmental injustice. We pair data on 12,570 US third graders (from 2013 to 2014) collected through the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey with PM2.5 concentrations for the census tracts of their home and school locations. We apply generalized estimating equations to test for intergenerational disparities in exposure and to examine how those disparities vary between racial/ethnic groups. Independent of race/ethnicity, first- and second-generation children have greater PM2.5 exposure than 2.5- and third-generation children. However, generational status disparities in exposures vary based on race/ethnicity. First-generation White children face greater exposure than White children of later generational statuses, with inequalities attenuating by the second generation. In contrast, Hispanic/Latinx children experience no significant drop in exposure until the third generation. Among Asian and Black children, generational status was not a significant determinant of exposure. Results quantify the intergenerational persistence of environmental injustices for persons of color while showing the amelioration of inequalities for Whites after just one generation is born in the US, reflecting another facet of White privilege in the US.