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Application of a global environmental equity index in Montreal: Diagnostic and further implications

Author: Mathieu Carrier, Philippe Apparicio, Yan Kestens, Anne-Marie Seguin, Hien Pham, Dan Crouse, Jack Siemiatycki
Year: 2016
Category: Health Publications

Read the journal article in Annals of the American Association of Geographers 

Urban living environments are known to influence human well-being and health. The literature on environmental equity focuses especially on the distribution of nuisances and resources, which, because of the unequal spatial distribution of different social groups, leads to an increased exposure to risks or to less access to beneficial elements for certain populations. Little work has been done on the multidimensionality of different environmental burdens and the lack of resources in some urban environments. This article has two main objectives. The first objective is to construct an environmental equity index that takes into consideration seven components of the urban environment (traffic-related pollutants, proximity to major roads and highways, vegetation, access to parks, access to supermarkets, and the urban heat island effect). The second objective is to determine whether groups vulnerable to different nuisances—namely, individuals under fifteen years old and the elderly—and those who tend to be located in the most problematic areas according to the environmental justice literature (i.e., visible minorities and low-income populations) are affected by environmental inequities associated with the application of the composite index at the city block level. The results obtained by using four statistical techniques show that, on the Island of Montreal, low-income persons and, to a lesser extent, visible minorities are more frequently located in city blocks close to major roads and with higher concentrations of NO2 and less vegetation. Finally, the environmental equity index is significantly lower in areas with high concentrations of low-income populations in comparison with the wealthiest areas.