Exploring Disparities in Maternal Residential Proximity to Unconentional Gas Development in the Barnett Shale in North Texas

Jennifer Ish, The University of Texas School of Public Health

Abstract

Inequalities in the distribution of environmental hazards may help explain persistent racial and socioeconomic disparities in adverse birth outcomes. Minority and low-income women are at greater risk of harmful environmental exposures and may also be more susceptible to their negative health effects. The environmental justice (EJ) literature regarding unconventional gas development (UGD), i.e., horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, raises concerns that minority and low-income communities may bear a disproportionate burden of the environmental health risks associated with UGD. The purpose of this study is to explore sociodemographic disparities in residential proximity to UGD wells in the Barnett Shale. Secondary data analysis was conducted on a retrospective birth cohort of 164,658 women with a live birth or fetal death between November 2010-2012 in the 24 counties overlapping the Barnett Shale play, in North Texas. In addition to individual-level characteristics obtained from the birth records, we computed census tract-level Index of Concentration at the Extremes (ICE) metrics to quantify relative neighborhood privilege and deprivation. Negative binomial regression was used to investigate the relation between individual- and census tract-level variables and proximity to UGD, defined as the count of active UGD wells within ½ mile of the home during the gestational period. Count ratios (CR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated to describe the association between sociodemographic variables and UGD well count. In this study, fewer UGD wells were located near the least privileged women and communities compared to the most privileged. For example, compared to non-Hispanic white women, there were fewer wells located near homes of non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women (CR: 0.82, 95% CI: 0.77-0.87; 0.84, 0.80-0.89, respectively). The same was true for census tracts with a higher concentration of low-income, non-Hispanic black households compared to tracts with more high-income, non-Hispanic white households (CR: 0.76, 95% CI: 0.71-0.80). While these results highlight a potential disparity in residential proximity to UGD wells in the Barnett Shale, it does not provide evidence of an EJ issue in the Barnett Shale. However, our results may not be generalizable to other parts of the country and state.^

Subject Area

Environmental health|Public health

Recommended Citation

Ish, Jennifer, "Exploring Disparities in Maternal Residential Proximity to Unconentional Gas Development in the Barnett Shale in North Texas" (2018). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10793372.
https://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/dissertations/AAI10793372

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