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Why the White House’s environmental justice tool is still disappointing advocates

Summary

The revised version of the U.S. government's "disadvantaged communities" tool automatically considers more than 750 federally recognized tribal tracts disadvantaged, refines its income formula, and adds nine new criteria for judging whether a neighborhood is disadvantaged. The changes led to an addition of roughly 4,400 census tracts to the ranks of the disadvantaged, resulting in 37 percent of the country's nearly 74,000 tracts now considered disadvantaged by the tool. The "disadvantaged" designation remains highly correlated with race, with the larger share of people of color in a tract, the more likely it is to be flagged. However, the addition of new data and methodological changes did not dramatically alter the tool's effectiveness at capturing communities of color shouldering environmental burdens. The tool's focus on communities of color has actually been diluted by the addition of many rural, majority-white tracts.

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