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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Texas A&M: Researchers Study Race and Gender Effects on Environmental Risk Perception

In a study in the journal Environmental Justice, Dr. Garett Sansom, research assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, and others investigated perceptions of environmental risk among residents of the Houston Ship Channel area neighborhood of Manchester. They surveyed residents about how they saw environmental risks and then analyzed survey results to see how race and gender played a role in risk assessment for a small area where all residents faced the same environmental threats.

Manchester is geographically compact and faces multiple environmental risks. The researchers conducted a community meeting to ensure the research would be of interest to residents, note their most prominent concerns and make use of their knowledge. Then they conducted a 24-question survey of residents to measure their opinions on the risks of poor road infrastructures, exposure to standing water and proximity to sources of pollution, among other factors.

Of the 150 residents surveyed, 28 percent were white, and approximately 62 percent were Hispanic. Most respondents, regardless of race or gender, expressed that living near pollution sources presented risks to health. Analysis of the survey data also noted that the so-called white male effect does not exist and that Hispanic residents even tended to be less likely to report adverse health problems due to environmental risks. These findings point to lived experience playing a far stronger role in risk perception than race or gender.

“We found race and gender may not affect environmental risk perception as strongly as previous research has shown and serves as a step toward a better understanding of how lived experiences and other factors also affect risk perception,” Dr. Sansom said.

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