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Environmental Inequality in China: A “Pyramid Model” and Nationwide Pilot Analysis of Prefectures with Sources of Industrial Pollution

by Qi He 1,2,3, Hong Fang 1,*, Han Ji 4,* and Siran Fang 5
1
School of Economics and Management, Beihang University, Beijing 100191, China
2
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modelling, Department of Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
3
ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP), School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
4
Agricultural Information Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China
5
College of Engineering, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210031, China
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2017, 9(10), 1871; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9101871
Received: 26 August 2017 / Revised: 29 September 2017 / Accepted: 16 October 2017 / Published: 18 October 2017
In China, environmental pollution generated via industrialization as well as profound changes in the social structure and the gradual maturation of the social hierarchy have jointly contributed to the Chinese people’s increased environmental consciousness and appeals for environmental justice (EJ). Because of the absence of an EJ theory and a lack of empirical research focused on China, this paper proposes a “Pyramid Model” for EJ research in China that includes the following three factors: basic demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, U.S.-based EJ principles, and Chinese characteristics. A nationwide pilot analysis of environmental inequality at the prefecture level is conducted by empirically examining the association between the demographic variables and socioeconomic status with sources of industrial pollution in China. The prefecture-based results are shown to be robust, and they indicate that areas inhabited by ethnic minorities and western regions of China carry disproportionate environmental burdens. However, a different picture for migrants is presented, revealing that Chinese migrants are not currently exposed to greater levels of industrial pollution. Relevant interpretations of these findings are provided. The results also show that environmental inequality associated with income level, which is observed in the U.S., does not occur in China. View Full-Text
Keywords: environmental inequality; environmental justice; industrial pollution; prefectures; demographic and socioeconomic factors; China environmental inequality; environmental justice; industrial pollution; prefectures; demographic and socioeconomic factors; China
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He, Q.; Fang, H.; Ji, H.; Fang, S. Environmental Inequality in China: A “Pyramid Model” and Nationwide Pilot Analysis of Prefectures with Sources of Industrial Pollution. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1871.

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