Quantifying the Disparate Racial/Ethnic Impacts of Dam Removals

George Galster, Joshua Galster, Karl Vachuska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Vast interracial differences in wealth are well-known. We investigate a previously unexplored source of such differences—removal of obsolete dams—thereby opening a new frontier of environmental racism studies. Specifically, we identify contexts in the USA where the pattern of dam removals has exhibited disparate impacts favoring Whites, then quantifying the degree to which these benefits accrue disproportionately to Whites through enhanced home values. Using data about large USA dams, we search for disparate impact by estimating linear probability models—stratified by region and ownership—of which dams were removed. We find that the probability of a dam being removed from 2010 to 2018 is positively associated with the proportion of proximate White residents only in the case of dams owned by local and state governments in the South. We then employ an adjusted interrupted time series regression model to quantify that proximate home values were enhanced 4% by the removal of the aforementioned dams. Aggregating this gain across all owner-occupied dwellings by racial/ethnic group in areas where dams were removed, we find a $194 million-larger gap in home equity gains between White and Nonwhite homeowners compared to what would have been the case in a hypothetical scenario where the pattern of dam removal was not racially biased. This figure is equivalent to $7700 per Nonwhite homeowner. We conclude that this represents a clear and substantial case of environmental injustice that calls for revisions in regulatory frameworks and management practices governing dam removals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Economics, Race, and Policy
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Keywords

  • Adjusted interrupted time series
  • Dam removal
  • Environmental racism
  • Home values
  • Interracial wealth differences
  • Racial equity policy

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