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GCSC Seminar: “Examining the Impacts of Inequality on Environmental Views & Outcomes in the U.S.”
February 15, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm MST
Lazarus Adua, Department of Sociology
“The Downside of the Gap! Examining the Impacts of Inequality on Environmental Views and Outcomes in the United States”
This study examines the influence of income- and wealth-based inequalities on environmental views and outcomes. Disproportionalities in income and wealth have been getting worse in the United States, which comes with substantial ramifications, including possible undesirable environmental consequences. There has been an ongoing debate on whether or not inequality drives environmental degradation. This study speaks to this important interdisciplinary debate, focusing on the micro (household) level, while extending it to cover the relationship between inequality and environmental views. While numerous studies address this question, they have done so largely at the macro- (cross-national) or meso- (subnational states and provinces) level. Similarly, rarely have researchers examined the relationship between inequality and environmental views, although such views have been shown to shape policy response. Based on probability-weighted ordinary least squares regression analysis of nationally representative data pertaining to U.S. households, I find substantial positive relationship between income- and wealth-based inequality and carbon emissions from residential energy consumption. The data show huge income- and wealth-related disproportionalities in carbon emissions from energy consumption among the households analyzed. Preliminary results from analysis of several waves of the General Social Survey similarly show that inequality significantly shapes views on government funding and response to environmental protection. These findings suggest the rapidly rising inequality we have witnessed in the United States over the past four decades is, most likely, inimical to environmental protection. An obvious implication of these findings is that measures implemented to reduce income- and wealth-based inequalities in the United States, which, in and of itself is a socially desirable outcome, will likely double as a climate change response policy.