A Local Level Quantitative Study of the Relationship between Foreign-born Populations and Carbon Footprint
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While much environmental social science research has focused on the association between immigrant populations and exposure to toxic pollution, the present study will utilize local carbon footprint data to assess whether foreign-born populations have a positive or negative impact on the environment in the United States. Drawing from the varied tradition of human ecology, two competing hypotheses are derived, one from a Neo-Malthusian perspective and an alternative perspective based on the more recent strand of critical human ecology. To evaluate these competing hypotheses, the carbon footprint data are merged with an array of demographic and economic variables measured at the zip code level across the United States (n=30,552). To approximate a variable representing the immigrant population, the study incorporates a measure of the percentage of the population who is foreign-born. For the analysis, in four separate cross-sectional models, both per-capita and per-household carbon footprints are regressed on the percentage foreign-born, controlling for other demographic and economic factors and for spatial autocorrelation. Results from these spatial regression models consistently indicate that there is a small, inverse association between carbon footprints and percentages of the population that is foreign-born in zip codes across the United States. The conclusion elaborates on the theoretical and practical implications of this finding.