Is There Also Economic *Air* Inequality?

Here’s a thought-provoking question: Why are the east sides of urban cities poorer than their west sides?  This is generally true of industrialized cities throughout the western world, including London, Paris and New York.  And it’s been true since the dawn of the Industrial Age more than 250 years ago.

Researchers in the U.K. wanted to find out.  And the answer they came up with is also thought-provoking: It’s because of the air.

The researchers mapped out 5,000 industrial chimneys in 70 English cities from 1880.  Then they used a simulation to recreate the distribution of pollution from those chimneys.  In the northern hemisphere, winds general blow from west to east.  As a result, the eastern sides of these industrial cities received much more air pollution, resulting in less-desired neighborhoods.  The rich moved out, leaving the poor behind.  And while these cities have much cleaner air today, their economic legacy persists more than two centuries later.

The researchers believe their work has implications for countries such as China and India, where pollution currently presents a major challenge.  Pollution already has consequences on human health.  There may also be consequences on spatial inequality that could affect future generations, long after the air quality is resolved.

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