Pollution, place, and premature death: evidence from a mid-sized city

John Hans Gilderbloom, Wesley L. Meares, Gregory D. Squires

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Neighborhood life expectancy varies by as much as 10 years across the City of Louisville. In 2013, the Greater Louisville Project funded by local government, businesses, and foundations, argued these differences had little to do with environmental factors. The Greater Louisville Project (2013) study argued that these neighborhood differences could be attributed 40% to socio-economic factors (with a major emphasis on education), 10% to physical environment, 30% to health behaviors, and 20% to access to medical care. To test these claims, we construct our own model of neighborhood variation in years of potential life lost (YPLL) by adding two variables testing environmental degradation. We operationalise two separate measures of environmental contamination: proximity to EPA designated brownfield sites and proximity to chemical factories in an industrial park in the neighborhood known as “Rubbertown”. We conduct several regression analyses, which show a relationship between proximity to environmental contaminants and an increase in neighborhood YPLL. Our beta weights challenge the claims made by the Greater Louisville Project, which minimize the impact nearness to environmental contaminants has on reductions in life expectancy in Louisville neighborhoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-432
Number of pages14
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2 2020


  • Environmental justice
  • Inequality
  • lifespan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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