This project was a collaboration involving researchers from Purdue University, Cornell University, the Environmental Defense Fund, Yale University, and Pomona College. The aim of the study was to find how various social groups of different race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status have different conceptualizations of what constitutes an environmental issue. More specifically, racial/ethnic minorities and lower-income groups face disproportionate environmental risks, which may hold implications for how different segments of the public construe environmental issues.
We explored this possibility with a racially and socioeconomically diverse online sample of 1,191 U.S. adults, hypothesizing that, relative to White and higher-SES respondents, non-White and lower-SES respondents would report perceiving a greater number of pressing societal issues as “environmental.” Across 18 issues ranging from more ecocentric (e.g., climate change, industrial pollution), reflecting physical environmental hazards, to more anthropocentric (e.g., poverty, lack of access to grocery stores), reflecting social determinants and consequences of environmental risk, non-Whites and lower-SES respondents perceived them as more environmental. These differences were larger among anthropocentric issues and appear to be mediated by environmental justice concerns. Results hold implications for the measurement of environmental attitudes and efforts to promote collective action in racially and economically diverse populations.
Cite this work
Researchers should cite this work as follows:
- Hwanseok, H., Lewis, N., Ballew, M., Bravo, M., Davydova, J., Gao, H. O., Garcia, R., Hiltner, S., Naiman, S., Pearson, A., Romero-Canyas, R., Schuldt, J. (2019). Environmental issue conceptualization by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (SES). Purdue University Research Repository. doi:10.4231/V1PW-BQ37