This paper critically examines the relationship between air pollution and deprivation. We argue that focusing on a particular economic or social model of urban development might lead one to erroneously expect all cities to converge towards a particular universal norm. A naive market sorting model, for example, would predict that poor households will eventually be sorted into high pollution areas, leading to a positive relationship between air pollution and deprivation. If, however, one considers a wider set of theoretical perspectives, the anticipated relationship between air pollution and deprivation becomes more complex and idiosyncratic. Specifically, we argue the relationship between pollution and deprivation can only be made sense of by considering processes of risk perception, path dependency, gentrification and urbanization. Rather than expecting all areas to eventually converge to some universal norm, we should expect the differences in the relationship between air pollution and deprivation across localities to persist. Mindful of these insights, we propose an approach to modeling which does not impose a geographically fixed relationship. Results for Scotland reveal substantial variations in the observed relationships over space and time, supporting our argument.
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