Blacks, Whites Share Concerns About EnvironmentANN ARBOR, Mich.
Contrary to commonly held assumptions, African Americans are as concerned as Whites — and in some cases more so — about environmental issues, according to a new study appearing in the June 2003 issue of Environment magazine.
Dr. Paul Mohai, associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, is the author of the study, the first comprehensive examination of the environmental concerns, priorities and actions of African Americans to date.
“The conventional wisdom is that, due to greater concerns about jobs, crime, education and other ‘survival’ issues, African Americans are unconcerned about the environment,” Mohai says. “This study provides clear evidence that conventional wisdom is wrong.”
The study, “Dispelling Old Myths: African American Concern for the Environment,” draws on national data sets as well as data from the Detroit Metropolitan Area. These include three decades of data from the National Opinion Research Center, U-M Detroit Area Studies from 1990 and 2002, two decades of data from the League of Conservation Voters, and the People of Color Environmental Groups Directory. The study examines not just the environmental attitudes of African Americans but also lifestyle choices, political actions, environmental group memberships and the environmental voting records of African American legislators.
Among the key findings:
• African Americans are more likely than Whites to make lifestyle choices that help protect the environment in the categories of buying pesticide-free foods (37 percent of African Americans versus 29 percent of Whites), consuming less meat (15 percent of African Americans versus 8 percent of Whites) and driving less (16 percent of African Americans versus 10 percent of Whites). However, African Americans are less likely than Whites to recycle (44 percent of African Americans versus 64 percent of Whites).
• African Americans are as likely as Whites to belong to environmental groups. In 2000, 9 percent of Whites and 8 percent of African Americans belonged to an environmental group.
• African Americans express significantly greater concern than Whites about their local environment. According to Mohai, this correlates with the poorer environmental quality found in African American neighborhoods.
• African Americans in Congress have been among the strongest and most consistent supporters of environmental protection legislation over the past two decades.
“Environmental issues are not ‘luxury’ issues to African Americans,” Mohai says. “Survey results such as these demonstrate that environmental quality issues are a priority on many different levels.”
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