Disparities in PM2.5 air pollution in the United States Jul 31, 2020 By Jay ShimshackJonathan ColmerIan HardmanJohn Voorheis Disparities in PM2.5 air pollution in the United States Air pollution at any given time is unequally distributed across locations. Average concentrations of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) have fallen over time. However, we do not know how the spatial distribution of PM2.5 has evolved. Here, we provide early evidence. We combine 36 years of PM2.5 concentrations measured over ~8.6 million grid cells with geographic, economic, and demographic data from ~65,000 U.S. census tracts. We show that differences in PM2.5 between more and less polluted areas declined substantially between 1981 and 2016. However, the most polluted census tracts in 1981 remained the most polluted in 2016. The least polluted census tracts in 1981 remained the least polluted in 2016. The most exposed subpopulations in 1981 remained the most exposed in 2016. Overall, absolute disparities have fallen, but relative disparities persist. Read in Science Magazine Jay Shimshack Jay Shimshack is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics, and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School. He received a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley and a B.S. from Cornell University. Prior to joining UVa, Shimshack held positions at Tulane University and Tufts University and a visiting faculty fellowship at the University of Michigan. His major fields are environmental regulation, environmental economics, corporate social behavior, and applied microeconomics for public policy. Read full bio Jonathan Colmer Ian Hardman John Voorheis Related Content Jay Shimshack Costly Sanctions and the Treatment of Frequent Violators in Regulatory Settings Research Regulators typically treat frequent violators more harshly. When does such harsh treatment maximize overall compliance? Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Response: Evidence from Sales of Emergency Supplies Before and After Hurricanes Research Government information warns households to acquire emergency supplies as hurricanes threaten and directs households to stay off roads after hurricanes make landfall. Do households follow this advice? Faculty Spotlight: From College Drop-Out to Action-Minded, Award-Winning Professor News Batten's Paul Martin teaches a course aimed at improving experiences for first-generation students at UVA, while also participating in a wide range of activities for the betterment of the Charlottesville community. Nationally, Air Pollution Has Fallen in Recent Decades. But Disparities Between Communities Persist. News Air pollution can have serious consequences for a person’s quality of life. Inhaling high concentrations of “fine particulate matter,” or particles approximately 40 times smaller than a grain of sand, has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and even death Jonathan Colmer told an online audience last week.