White flight and coming to the nuisance: Can residential mobility explain environmental injustice?
Effective environmental justice (EJ) policy requires an understanding of the economic and social forces that determine the correlation between race, income, and pollution exposure. We show how the traditional approach used in many EJ analyses cannot identify nuisance-driven residential mobility. We develop an alternative strategy that overcomes this problem and implement it using data on air toxics from Los Angeles County, California, USA. Differences in estimated willingness to pay for cleaner air across race groups support the residential mobility explanation. Our results suggest that Hispanics may dislike cancer risk but be less willing to trade other forms of consumption to avoid it. As a result, household mobility responses may work against policies designed to address inequitable siting decisions for facilities with environmental health risks.