(Un) Just Deserts: Examining the Consequences of Economic, Social, and Environmental Disinvestment in the Urban South
Satcher, Lacee Anne
Unequal access to important resources in the urban built environment has been a significant social problem under study by social scientists. Guided by an environmental justice framework, this mixed-method dissertation takes a spatial approach to the inequality-environment-health nexus. Paper One introduces the concept of multiply deserted areas (MDA), defined as a neighborhood with co-occurring, compounded resource scarcity. Engaging this concept, the study uses data from American Community Survey (ACS), USDA Food Atlas, and various local, state, and federal government sites to examine whether and how neighborhood race and class demographics predict the likelihood of a neighborhood being an MDA (N=3011). Findings indicate that predominantly Black neighborhoods have nearly three times the odds of being an MDA relative to other neighborhoods. Moreover, the odds of a neighborhood being an MDA increases as median household income increases if the neighborhood is predominantly Black. Paper Two draws from stress theory to connect the racialized patterns of compounded resource scarcity to health and well-being. Merging data from Paper One with health outcome data from the 500 Cities data set (CDC) (N=2145), this study examines the effect of living in an MDA on physical health and the impact of race and class on this relationship. Findings show that MDAs have higher prevalence of inactivity, asthma, diabetes, and obesity relative to non-MDAs. Race and class further complicate this association. Paper Three draws on conceptualizations of place attachment from environmental psychology to explore MDA residents’ perceived access to resources in their neighborhood and how this shapes their attachment to place. Findings show that residents’ perceptions of access can be discordant from objective, distance-based access measures. This discordance is explained by differences in perception of resource quality, quantity, relative distance, and length of residence. Perceptions of access do not shape residents’ place attachment, but other psycho-social resources do. These findings have implications for understanding the more insidious routes through which race and racism negatively shape social and health outcomes for Black people in America.