Survey finds that most people think poverty is why pollution disproportionately affects Black people, despite evidence that racism is the major cause.

Most Americans do not think that Black people are any more likely to be affected by pollution than white people, despite significant evidence that racism is a root cause of environmental injustice in the United States, a survey has found.

Dylan Bugden.

Numerous research papers over the years have shown that people of colour and poor people are significantly more likely to live in areas of high pollution — a result of the deliberate construction of polluting industries in these communities, says Dylan Bugden, an environmental sociologist at Washington State University in Pullman.

But Bugden found that respondents to the survey were more than twice as likely to identify poverty as the main cause of environmental inequalities, instead of blaming structural racism. This is despite scientific evidence clearly demonstrating that “race, rather than poverty, is the primary factor behind environmental inequality”, notes Bugden in his study, published in Social Problems. Additionally, many people suggested that a lack of hard work and poor personal choices were responsible for increased exposure to pollution.

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