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IPPSR is MSU’s new hub for public policy information and research. Search our summaries of scientific research with implications for public policy by inputting keywords in the search box or selecting options from the menus below.

Policy Research

Testing for Environmental Racism: Prejudice, Profits, Political Power?

James T. Hamilton

January 2020

This article tests three main hypotheses for why racial discrepancies exist in terms of exposure to environmental hazards. The first hypothesis posits that pure discrimination on behalf of corporations creates these discrepancies. The second asserts that certain racial communities differ in their willingness to pay for “environmental amenities” that would lessen their risk of exposure to harmful toxins and pollutants. Finally, the third hypothesis posits that some communities are more likely and/or able than others to collectively organize against the placement of environmental hazards in their midst. Upon reviewing each, author and Stanford Professor James T. Hamilton concludes that the disproportionate concentration of environmental hazards in non-white neighborhoods, an inherently racialized fact, can best be explained by the lack of resources and infrastructure for collective organization within these marginalized racial communities. Thus, hypothesis three provides the most satisfactory explanation.

Where are the women? Evaluating visibility of Nigerian female politicians in news media space

Mercy Ette

October 2017

This article examines how female politicians in Nigeria receive less coverage than male politicians, as well as more gender-stereotypical coverage. This poor coverage harms women’s political success, as voters are not aware of the issues that they represent. Additionally, this lack of success reinforces poor media coverage, as there are then fewer politicians to cover.

Flint, Environmental Racism, and Racial Capitalism

Laura Pulido

July 2016

This article argues that the poisoning of the city of Flint is due to two factors: racism and capitalism. It asserts that capitalism is meant to devalue “surplus” people, who are almost always those of color. Using the example of Flint, it shows how neoliberalist policies promoted white flight from the city, thus shrinking the tax base and in turn producing massive cuts to social services. When these cuts were still not enough to make up for the difference in the tax base, the State of Michigan used its tyrannical Emergency Manager power to allow an unelected official to force austerity measures on the people of Flint. Overall, the piece is making an intriguing and rather convincing argument that capitalism only values that which - and those who - add capital to an economy, and neoliberal fiscal policies strip people of color of their ability to do this, thus devaluing them to society as a whole.

Environmental Injustice: Is Race or Income a Better Predictor?

Liam Downey

December 1998

In this journal article, University of Arizona Professor Liam Downey attempts to decipher whether race or class is a better indicator of living in an unjust environment (i.e. one with a disproportionately high share of toxic emissions). Focusing on Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) emissions in the state of Michigan, Downey asserts that the conclusions one comes to regarding the potency of race or class in determining environmental conditions depends upon whether one does a statewide analysis or focuses on urban areas, as well as if one views race and class as mutually exclusive factors or not. For his part, Downey performs a statewide analysis and views the two identities as interdependent rather than separate. He concludes that one must take an institutional approach, not an intentional one, and see the inextricable link between race and class - specifically how they together determine where marginalized communities live and what concentration of pollutants they are exposed to.

Education Debt Burden and Career Choice: Evidence from a Financial Aid Experiment at NYU Law School

Erica Field

January 2009

This article examined the impact that debt perception can have on career choices. Through a lottery, they gave some NYU Law students an opportunity to have loan repayment from the school if they took a public interest job (thus requiring the student to take out an initial loan) and gave others an opportunity in which the student wasn’t required to take out a loan, but instead received free tuition in exchange for taking a public interest job (with the stipulation that they would have to pay back the school if they decided against public interest). This lottery system resulted in more student ‘winners’ of applying to NYU, and in those winners being more likely to commit to public service careers. These winners were also more likely to get clerkships, indicating high performance levels. We also see that the subsidy group ended law school with higher GPAs. Overall, they found that subsidizing education (paying for it rather than making students take out loans) saw higher rates of public interest work.

Does Race Affect Access to Government Services? An Experiment Exploring Street-Level Bureaucrats and Access to Public Housing

January 2017

This study investigates how race impacts access to public housing by tracking responses to email inquiries sent local public housing officials using racialized names from potential White, Hispanic, and Black applicants. It analyzes how responsive and friendly bureaucrats are in their response, if bureaucrats are more friendly/responsive to members of their same racial/ethnic group, and if bureaucrats are more friendly to Black and Hispanic applicants in communities that have large minority populations. The results show there is no evidence of discrimination based on race or sex in the timeliness of responses, though they do suggest a racial bias in the friendliness of response, as inquiries from the Hispanic applicants were less likely to include a named salutation. There was little evidence to suggest that officials interact differently with members of their own racial or ethnic group. The results also show that the tone of the emails is more friendly in areas with a large minority population, more specifically in responses to Hispanic applicants.

Do landlords discriminate in the rental housing market? Evidence from an internet field experiment in US cities_Hanson, Hawley

Andrew Hanson, Zackary Hawley

March 2011

This study investigates racial discrimination in the rental housing market by using email inquiries in response to Craigslist postings to simulate interactions between landlords and potential renters in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C. Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. The emails were drafted using names associated with particular races as well as variations of the emails that included language meant to reflect social class. The results show that the response rate is lower for African American renters than for White inquiries. In regards to the intersection between race and social class, the results suggest that there is discrimination against African Americans in cases where both inquiries are made using the “low-class” email templates. Furthermore, the study shows that in communities that are on the “tipping point” (i.e. neighborhoods that have a minority population between 5% to 20%) there is more severe discrmination.

Corruption, accountability, and gender: do female politicians face higher standards in public life?

Andrew C. Eggers, Nick Vivyan, Markus Wagner

January 2020

This article investigates whether female politicians face harsher punishment for corrupt behavior than males. The researchers found that voters punish misconduct about equally for men and women. However, female voters were more likely to punish corrupt politicians than male voters. Women were especially likely to punish other women, while the gender of the politician had no effect on male voters.

A Critical Geographic Approach to Youth Civic Engagement: Reframing Educational Opportunity Zones and the Use of Public Spaces

Kevin J. Burke, Stuart Greene, Maria K. McKenna

January 2016

This article focuses on the ways in which inner-city youth conceptualize public spaces. The authors make it clear that “inner -city” is not meant to represent poor youth of color as it can often be interpreted as, but rather the youth who live in the city and former industrial hubs of the Midwest. The youth used Photovoice, a method of relaying their experiences through photos and other media, to give legitimacy and value to their experiences in areas otherwise unrepresented. They found that this type of methodology paves the way for new discussion on how the youth of an area perceive it. Getting information from the viewpoint of kids helps the author to see that urban developers often do not consider the youth. For example, tearing down neighborhoods for the sake of putting in a new charter school or new housing “misses the ways that children use these spaces to extend their educations”. They see and use these spaces in a way we may not.

The second green revolution: Innovative urban agriculture's contribution to food security and sustainability – A review

Dian T. Armanda, Jeroen B. Guinee, Arnold Tukker

September 2019

Since 2010 urban agriculture has been changing into more innovative urban agriculture, starting what many call the Second Green Revolution. This could be a way of meeting growing demand for food and contributing to food security and environmental sustainability. These innovations are defined in the study by involving at least one technological innovation, including things such as indoor agriculture, vertical agriculture, and soilless agriculture. This practice of urban agriculture contributes to food security by stabilizing local food production and are more sustainable in the sense that it will reduce the miles traveled by food, however all of this innovation may be more about bells and whistles than it is increasing desired outcomes.