It is not race or class that makes communities more susceptible to industrial pollution. The reason that environmental justice research has produced “very mixed results,” says Don Grant, a sociologist at the University of Arizona, is that it’s been asking the wrong questions.

People, from sociologists to activists to policymakers, “like to reduce problems like pollution to a single factor, such as race or income. But our findings suggest it’s more complex than that,” and should include traits...

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