Publications

2022
Alvarez CH, Shtob D, Theis N. Analyzing the Military’s Role in Producing Air Toxics Disparities in the United States: A Critical Environmental Justice Approach. Social Problems. 2022. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The negative environmental, health, and social effects arising from U.S. military action in communities both domestically and abroad suggest that the military represents an understudied institutional source of environmental injustice. Moreover, scholars and activists have long argued that the state is an active or a tacit contributor to environmental inequality, thus providing an opportunity to link U.S. military activity with approaches to the state developed under critical environmental justice. We build on these literatures to ask: Does the presence of domestic military facilities significantly increase carcinogenic risks from air toxics? And do communities of color face additional military-associated carcinogenic risks? Multilevel analyses reveal that locales in closer proximity to a military facility and those exposed to greater military technological intensity, independent of each other, experience significantly higher carcinogenic risk from air toxics. We find that proximity to military facilities tends to intensify racial and ethnic environmental inequalities in exposure to airborne toxics, but in different ways for Latinx and Black populations. These results highlight the role of the state in perpetuating racial and environmental expendability as reflected in critical environmental justice and represent an important expansion of nationwide environmental justice studies on contributors to environmental inequality.
alvarez_shtob_and_theis_2022.pdf
Alvarez CH. Structural Racism as an Environmental Justice Issue: A Multilevel Analysis of the State Racism Index and Environmental Health Risk from Air Toxics. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. 2022. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Communities of color and poor neighborhoods are disproportionately exposed to more air pollution—a pattern known as environmental injustices. Environmental injustices increase susceptibility to negative health outcomes among residents in affected communities. The structural mechanisms distributing environmental injustices in the USA are understudied. Bridging the literatures on the social determinants of health and environmental justice highlights the importance of the environmental conditions for health inequalities and sheds light on the institutional mechanisms driving environmental health inequalities. Employing a critical quantitative methods approach, we use data from an innovative state racism index to argue that systematic racialized inequalities in areas from housing to employment increase outdoor airborne environmental health risks in neighborhoods. Results of a multilevel analysis in over 65,000 census tracts demonstrate that tracts in states with higher levels of state-level Black–white gaps report greater environmental health risk exposure to outdoor air pollution. The state racism index explains four-to-ten percent of county- and state-level variation in carcinogenic risk and noncarcinogenic respiratory system risks from outdoor air toxics. The findings suggest that the disproportional exposure across communities is tied to systematic inequalities in environmental regulation and other structural elements such as housing and incarceration. Structural racism is an environmental justice issue.
alvarez_2022.pdf
2021
Alvarez CH, Theis NG, Shtob DA. Military as an Institution and Militarization as a Process: Theorizing the U.S. Military and Environmental Justice. Environmental Justice. 2021;14 (6) :426-434. Publisher's VersionAbstract
State reactions to Black Lives Matter demonstrations include heavily militarized domestic police responses and the deployment of the National Guard. These events place emphasis on understanding the U.S. military as an institution and militarization as a process; as well as their corresponding environmental justice (EJ) consequences. In this study, we integrate critical race theory, decolonial thought, carceral geography, and military and environmental sociology to theorize the military and militarization as potentially important and overlooked sources of environmental injustice that ought to concern scholars and activists. We use an interdisciplinary framework to highlight: the historical role of the military in the creation and maintenance of racialized and colonized difference, how the U.S. militarization is connected to localized and national overpolicing and environmental harm, and how the environmental risks of warfare may be transferred from combat zones to civilian EJ communities and sites, both domestically and abroad. We stress that the production of colonized and racialized space—and the criminalization of Black, Indigenous, and other bodies of color—happens within the context of militarization as a process and the U.S. military as an institution so future critical analysis should look to these levels. Our goal is to urge scholars and activists to recognize the military as a potentially significant contributor to environmental injustice and outline avenues for future study.
Military as an Institution and Militarization as a Process pre-published_manuscript.pdf
Alvarez CH. Military, Race, and Urbanization: Lessons of Environmental Injustice from Las Vegas, Nevada. Sociological Perspectives. 2021;64 (3) :325-342. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Environmental justice scholarship argues state power perpetrates environmental inequalities, but less is known about the U.S. Military’s impact on local urban environmental inequalities. To evaluate the role of the military in contributing to environmental health disparities, I draw on the case study of Las Vegas, Nevada, a southwestern city with active military sites. The analysis uses environmental health, demographic, and Geographic Information System (GIS) data from federal and county agencies. Findings from spatial error models support environmental inequality and treadmill of destruction hypotheses by demonstrating that census tracts in closer proximity to military areas have greater estimated cancer risk from air toxics. Census tracts with a higher percent of poor and Latinx residents, independent of their proximity to military areas, have an additional increase in exposure to air pollution. The case study of Las Vegas offers important lessons of environmental injustice on Latinx environmental health vulnerability and military sites in urban areas.
alvarez_2021.pdf
2020
Alvarez CH, Evans CR. Intersectional Environmental Justice and Population Health Inequalities: A Novel Approach. Social Science & Medicine . 2020;269. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Drawing on the traditions of environmental justice, intersectionality, and social determinants of health, and using data from the EPA's NATA 2014 estimates of cancer risk from air toxics, we demonstrate a novel quantitative approach to evaluate intersectional environmental health risks to communities: Eco-Intersectional Multilevel (EIM) modeling. Results from previous case studies were found to generalize to national-level patterns, with multiply marginalized tracts with a high percent of Black and Latinx residents, high percent female-headed households, lower educational attainment, and metro location experiencing the highest risk. Overall, environmental health inequalities in cancer risk from air toxics are: (1) experienced intersectionally at the community-level, (2) significant in magnitude, and (3) socially patterned across numerous intersecting axes of marginalization, including axes rarely evaluated such as gendered family structure. EIM provides an innovative approach that will enable explicit consideration of structural/institutional social processes in the social production of intersectional and geospatial inequalities.
alvarez_and_evans_ssm_2020.pdf
2019
Alvarez CH, McGee JA, York R. Is Labor Green?: A Cross-National Analysis of Union Membership and CO2 Emissions. Nature & Culture. 2019;14 (1).Abstract
In this article, we assess whether unionization of national workforces influences growth in national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita. Political-economic theories in environmental sociology propose that labor unions have the potential to affect environmental conditions. Yet, few studies have quantitatively assessed the influence of unionization on environmental outcomes using cross-national data. We estimate multilevel regression models using data on OECD member nations from 1970 to 2014. Results from our analysis indicate that unionization, measured as the percentage of workers who are union members, is negatively associated with CO2 emissions per capita, even when controlling for labor conditions. This finding suggests that unionization may promote environmental protection at the national level.
alvarez_mcgee_and_york_2019.pdf
Alvarez CH, Loustaunau L, Petrucci L, Scott E. Impossible Choices: How Workers Manage Unpredictable Scheduling Practices. Labor Studies Journal. 2019.Abstract

A total of 16 percent of hourly workers and 36 percent of workers paid on some other basis experience unstable work schedules due to irregular, on-call, rotating, or split shifts, which negatively impact workers’ ability to manage family responsibilities, finances, and health. Primarily drawing on data from in-depth interviews conducted in Oregon in 2016, this study expands research on how workers navigate through “bad jobs” by exploring the ways in which they respond in an attempt to manage the individual impacts of precarious work arrangements. We found that workers respond to unpredictable scheduling in four ways: they acquiesce, self-advocate, quit, or directly oppose employers. Our findings highlight the “impossible choices” workers face as they negotiate prevalent, unpredictable work conditions, juggle work-life obligations, and struggle to remain employed. We conclude with fair week, work policy recommendations.

(equal co-auhtors)

Clement MT, Alvarez CH. The Inequality of Mundane Environmental Change: Assessing the Impacts of Socioeconomic Status and Race on Neighborhood Land Development, 2001–2011. Sociological Perspectives. 2019.Abstract
Theoretical frameworks in environmental inequality suggest that affluent, white, and educated communities have a greater ability to control local environmental change. With a focus on neighborhood-level land development, the authors evaluate this proposition considering the spatial shifts that are reshaping metropolitan areas across the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century. With coverage for 52,473 metropolitan census tracts, the authors integrate sociodemographic variables from governmental sources with longitudinal data on developed land area from the National Land Cover Database, 2001–2011. Controlling for a host of other factors, results from spatial regression models with fixed effects show that new land development is negatively associated with affluence and educational attainment. Situating the notion of environmental privilege in a historical context, we propose that, with the “back to the city” movement, these groups are moving back into the urban core, which is already relatively built-out and thus has a lower rate of new land development.
2018
Alvarez CH, Norton-Smith KG. Environmental Inequality in Latino Destinations: Estimated Cancer Risk from Air Toxics in Latino Traditional and New Destinations. Socius. 2018;4.Abstract
Since the 1990s, Latino migration patterns have shifted from traditional destinations to new destinations away from the Mexico border. Scholars note disparities between destinations in housing, crime, and health care, yet no study has examined environmental inequalities. In this article we employ theories of spatial assimilation and environmental inequality to evaluate health risks across Latino destinations by asking the question, is there a difference in estimated cancer risk from air toxics among established, new, and nondestination locations? Using county-level data with spatial lag regression analyses, we find that early new destinations (i.e., counties with significant Latino growth from 1990 to 2000) and recent new destinations (i.e., counties with significant Latino growth from 1990 to 2010) have higher estimated cancer risk from air toxics than established destinations (i.e., counties at or greater than the national average of Latinos in 1990) and nondestinations. The effect remains significant when controlling for various economic indicators.
alvarez_and_norton-smith_2018.pdf
2016
Alvarez CH. Militarization and Water: A Cross-National Analysis of Militarism and Freshwater Withdrawals. Environmental Sociology. 2016;2 (3).Abstract
The treadmill of destruction theory identifies the military as a major contributor to environmental problems. Water resources exploitation is one major problem that has been insufficiently studied by sociologists. Utilizing the treadmill of destruction framework here, I aim to assess how the military influences water use in nations. The purpose of this article is twofold: first, I utilize the treadmill of destruction theory to explain how the military interacts with water resources through combat and civilian operations. Second, I empirically demonstrate militarization influences on freshwater withdrawals through a fixed-effect analysis of 126 countries between 1997 and 2011. Militarization is measured as the number of military personnel relative to the population and military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product. My results show that as military personnel and spending increases, there is a corresponding increase in freshwater withdrawals. My analysis suggests militarization is an important structural driver of environmental impacts including freshwater resources.
alvarez_2016.pdf
McGee JA, Alvarez CH. The Metabolic Rift of Certified Organic Farming. Sustainability. 2016;8 (2). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Many proponents of organic farming claim that it is a sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture due to its reliance on natural agro-inputs, such as manure based fertilizers and organic pesticides. However, in this analysis we argue that although particular organic farming practices clearly benefit ecosystems and human consumers, the social context in which some organic farms develop, limit the potential environmental benefits of organic agriculture. Specifically, we argue that certified organic farming’s increased reliance on agro-inputs, such as organic fertilizers and pesticides, reduces its ability to decrease global water pollution. We review recent research that demonstrates the environmental consequences of specific organic practices, as well as literature showing that global organic farming is increasing its reliance on agro-inputs, and contend that organic farming has its own metabolic rift with natural water systems similar to conventional agriculture. We use a fixed-effects panel regression model to explore how recent rises in certified organic farmland correlate to water pollution (measured as biochemical oxygen demand). Our findings indicate that increases in the proportion of organic farmland over time increases water pollution. We conclude that this may be a result of organic farms increasing their reliance on non-farm agro-inputs, such as fertilizers.