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Environment and Inequality in Germany

Open Panel

Abstract

Classical studies on society and the environment are mainly concerned with the question of why and when societies accept pollution, and why humans act in an environmentally unfriendly manner. In recent years, however, questions on the adaptation to climate change and on inequalities in exposure to pollutants, in vulnerability, and in affectedness by the changing climate have gained increased attention (“Environmental Justice”). Whereas the study of Environmental Justice and the relationship between social inequality and environmental burdens has received great attention in the US, there are only few studies on the topic for Europe. In this paper, I will empirically analyze environmental inequality in Germany. Using data from a nationwide panel study (GSOEP 1986-2004), I first assess the amount of inequality in environment related living conditions. Then I proceed to analyze panel data, in order to test hypotheses on mechanisms producing respectively reproducing environmental inequalities. A special focus of this paper is on the effect of selective migration and unequal opportunities on the housing market. The data show that there indeed is substantial inequality regarding the subjectively perceived environmental quality of living conditions – pollution, noise, and green spaces. This inequality is linked to the household income and remains stable under control of education. First results of the panel regression models show that the perceived environmental quality improves with moving to a new place to live. Yet, opportunities on the housing marked are influenced by a household''s disposable income as well as by ethnic origin. Tests for interaction in the panel regression reveal an interaction between income respectively ethnic origin and the effect of moving. Therefore economically disadvantaged persons and persons with a non-german ethnic origin profit less from moving to a new place to live.