First Advisor

Veronica Dujon

Date of Publication

Summer 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Environmental justice -- Oregon -- Portland, Income distribution -- Oregon -- Portland, Hazardous waste sites -- Location -- Oregon -- Portland, Minorities -- Health and hygiene -- Oregon -- Portland



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 115 p.)


This thesis explores patterns of environmental inequality in Portland, Oregon; both the existence of spatial environmental inequalities and the structural and local forces which contribute to them. Research on environmental inequality, or inequitable exposure to toxins, has shown that minority and low-income populations experience the bulk of the exposure to environmental hazards. Although Portland is often cited as the archetype of a sustainable city, environmental inequality is a pervasive issue. This thesis examines the health inequalities that characterize underserved communities in Portland. Utilizing a mixed methods approach, the researcher uses 1) logistic regression to statistically assess the relationship between race, poverty, and Superfund site locations, and 2) in-depth interviews with members of Oregon's environmental justice movement to help understand the historical, social, political, and economic conditions of Portland and their subsequent influence on environmental inequalities. Quantitative data is pooled from 2000 census and 2011 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sources. The quantitative findings demonstrate that environmental inequality is present in Portland, with African Americans being particularly overrepresented in tracts with Superfund sites. The quantitative analyses ultimately suggest that minimally populated, highly impoverished tracts with approximately 11% African American residents are most likely to house a Superfund site. The qualitative findings show that a variety of structural and local forces play prominent roles in the formation of Portland's environmental inequalities. The qualitative analyses reveal this to be a multifaceted and complex process that is indicative of Portland's history of racial inequality, contemporary free market and business forces, and governmental interests which culminate in trends of inequitable development.


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