Environmental Justice: The Data Way

From the 1986 USDA report, "Black Farmers and Their Farms," a map titled "Concentration of Black Farmers in the [U.S.] South, 1972. Counties in states from Texas to Maryland and Delaware. Black farmers are concentrated along the coast from Virginia to Georgia and along the Mississippi from Tennessee and Arkansa to Mississippi and Louisiana, as well as parts of Alabama and the Georgia/Florida line, with some outliers in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas.Data on race, income, and proximity to environmental benefits and burdens can be used to study environmental justice and injustice. In fact, some policy efforts have been defined based on percentages of races and measures of income in a given community. Some useful tools for examining and finding data on environmental justice include:


Mapping (& Data)

  • EJSCREEN, a "screening and mapping tool" from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Walk Score, a tool that assesses a neighborhood's quality of life from the point of view of access to resources by walking and public transportation. 

  • Food Access Research Atlas, A U.S. Department of Agriculture food desert mapping tool. Where is it hard to get access to food? 

  • Global Atlas of Environmental Justice, for an international  perspective.


DataSide by side pie charts of "Nonfarm Contributions to Southern Farming Family Income by Source," 1979. One pie is of Black farm families, and one is of White.  The charts suggest that Blacks are more dependent on cash wages from nonfarm work and retirement and disability payments, whereas White farmers have more resources in the categories of interest and dividents, and "other" non-farm income.


U.S. Government (and Critics)

(in addition to the EPA and USDA resources above)

For current Harvard Affiliates:

  • Social Explorer: U.S. Census interactive maps and reports. Currently provides access to data from 1790 to present at census tract, county, state and national level.

  • Policy Map: "50,000 indicators accessible through a state-of-the-art mapping and analytics." Try the tabs for Quality of Life and Health, for example. 

  • Data Visualization Support from the Harvard Library.

  • The Harvard Map Collection can help with spatial data and digital cartography.