Environmental Inequality


Lead exposure, and environmental inequality more generally, have important social consequences. The neighborhood clustering of toxic and harsh environments is especially harmful to the physical and mental well-being of children, which in turn undermines key dimensions of social mobility later in life. This process is distinct from more familiar arguments about the blocked opportunities or inadequate investment in human capital that result from concentrated poverty, motivating alternative ways to think about policy. Past interventions that have cleaned up the physical environment and reduced toxic hazards indicate that environmental policy is in part crime policy. Maintaining environmental health also makes for social mobility policy.

In a series of articles, Professor Sampson and colleagues have analyzed the sources and consequences of lead exposure with respect to social mobility, crime, and health. They have also presented a theoretical model of environmental inequality over the life course to guide an agenda for future research. This body of research calls for a deeper exchange between urban sociology, environmental sociology, and public health, and for more collaboration between scholars and local communities in the pursuit of independent science for the common good.

For more on the toxic inequality project and recent articles, click here.