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Meeting Urban Housing Needs: Do People Really Come to the Nuisance?

51 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2012  

Brooks Depro

RTI International

Christopher Timmins

Duke University - Department of Economics

Maggie O'Neil

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: May 2012


Understanding the forces that lead to correlations between pollution exposure, poverty, and race is crucial to the formation of sound environmental justice (EJ) policy. In particular, what are the roles of disproportionate siting of pollution sources versus post-siting housing market dynamics (e.g., "white flight")? Empirical analysis of post-siting dynamics has yielded mixed evidence. We demonstrate that this is because the models traditionally used to analyze it are not capable of identifying individual responses to pollution exposure. We address this limitation in two ways. First, we show how additional structure can be used along with traditional EJ data to recover behavioral parameters describing market dynamics. Second, we show how market dynamics can be directly observed using a new and distinctive data set that describes the decisions of individual homebuyers and details their circumstances (including pollution exposure) both before and after their moves. An application of the first approach shows that whites are more likely to flee TRI exposure in Los Angeles County than are other minority groups - particularly Hispanics, who constitute a plurality and the largest group of people of color. The second approach shows that whites are both more likely to flee and less likely to come to the nuisance, compared with all other groups (particularly Hispanics). Importantly, these results contrast with those of a traditional EJ analysis, which fails to provide any consistent evidence of post-siting dynamics. If the moving patterns we recover with our two models persist over time, we would expect to see higher percentages of minority residents (particularly Hispanics) living in closer proximity to L.A. County TRI plants, lending support to the post-siting market dynamics hypothesis.

Suggested Citation

Depro, Brooks and Timmins, Christopher and O'Neil, Maggie, Meeting Urban Housing Needs: Do People Really Come to the Nuisance? (May 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18109. Available at SSRN:

Brooks Depro (Contact Author)

RTI International ( email )

3040 Cornwallis Road
P.O. Box 12194
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
United States
919-541-6729 (Phone)
919-541-6683 (Fax)


Christopher D. Timmins

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States
919-660-1809 (Phone)
919-684-8974 (Fax)

Maggie O'Neil

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

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