Evaluating the Impact of Race and Gender on Environmental Risk Perceptions in the Houston Neighborhood of Manchester.
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Previous research has shown that white males tend to perceive risks from environmental exposures as lower than women and members of minority populations, often referred to as the white male effect. However, this effect was mostly demonstrated without regard to the actual lived environment experienced by the study participants. There is growing evidence that differences in risk perceptions cannot be adequately explained through race or gender. This cross-sectional study collected survey data from residents of Manchester, a small neighborhood in Houston, Texas, characterized by industrial sites, unimproved infrastructure, nuisance flooding, and poor air quality. Trained community members attempted a complete census within the geographically compact neighborhood. Logistic regression was used to estimate the relative effect of race on environmental health perceptions adjusted for generational age. In contrast to previous research, our study (N=109) showed that nonwhite individuals perceived a lower environmental health risk compared with their white counterparts. Comparing female and minority racial groups with white males showed that on most issues, white males had the highest perception of risk. For example, adjusted for age, nonwhite respondents perceived the risk of contact with standing water as significantly lower than white respondents (odds ratio=0.34; 95% confidence interval=0.12-0.93). This study supports the hypothesis that when environmental conditions experienced by individuals are the same, minority groups tend to underestimate their risk compared with white males. One possible explanation put forth is that communal norms are created within minority populations through generations of exposure to negative environmental conditions compared with white populations.
author list (cited authors)
Sansom, G., Berke, P., McDonald, T., Shipp, E., & Horney, J. A.
complete list of authors
Sansom, Garett||Berke, Philip||McDonald, Thomas||Shipp, Eva||Horney, Jennifer A