My current research project relies on two of the most recognized rallying cries of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, “I Can’t Breathe” and “Hands Up,” to illustrate metropolitan air quality disparities and the disproportionate burden of poor air quality on communities of color and lower socioeconomic status. While numerous studies suggest that communities of color and lower socioeconomic status face greater exposure to harmful air pollutants, few studies have explored the correlation between the realities of air quality disparities and perceptions about air quality of residents in and around those communities. During summer 2012, the Kansas City metropolitan area experienced 23 Ozone Alert days, 7 times the number of alerts in the three years prior. Analyzing public awareness survey data collected in winter 2012 from over 800 metropolitan residents, this research explores disparities in perceptions of air quality conditions by race, class, and place, and compares differences to actual data from air quality monitors. In addition to statistical analyses, this study employs geographic information systems (GIS) to visualize spatial differences in air quality perceptions and realities. Preliminary results reveal that a greater percentage of minorities are highly concerned about the health impacts of poor air quality, have a household member with breathing or respiratory problems, and feel a lower sense of self efficacy that they can do anything to improve air quality in their community.
Published by Dr. Tony G. Reames
Tony G. Reames is an assistant professor in the School for Environment & Sustainability (SEAS) at the University of Michigan. He has a PhD in public administration from the University of Kansas. He is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) with a Master of Engineering Management from Kansas State University, and a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Dr. Reames leads the Urban Energy Justice Lab and his research investigates the fair and equitable access to affordable, reliable, clean energy, and explores the production and persistence of energy disparities across race, class, and place. View all posts by Dr. Tony G. Reames