GIS-based Environmental Equity and Risk Assessment: Methodological Problems and Prospects

Robert B. McMaster, Helga Leitner, Eric Sheppard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Geographic information systems increasingly have been applied in the domain of environmental risk assessment. One area of research that appears to have excellent potential is in GIS as applied to the assessment of environmental equity. This paper reviews the methodologies used in recent GIS-based environmental equity studies and their results. From this review, a framework for a more comprehensive discussion of methodological issues and challenges is provided, addressing questions of data and measurement, scale and resolution, and methods of analysis. A preliminary environmental equity analysis for the Twin Cities metropolitan region illustrates the complexity of the relationship between the methodological approaches used and the resulting assessments of environmental equity and risk. This analysis is based on multiple sources of hazardous materials, uses fine-resolution census data including site-specific institutions, includes more sophisticated measures of risk than the location of hazardous sites, and investigates the potential of a neighborhood-scale analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-189
Number of pages18
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) Initiative 19, GIS & Society (NSF SBR 88-10917), and Neighborhood Planning for Community Revitalization, the University of Minnesota, for providing funding for this study. We also wish to thank Sarah Elwood and Ingrid Weinbauer for their assistance, and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments.


  • Environmental equity
  • GIS and society
  • Hazardous materials
  • Neighborhood mapping
  • Risk assessment

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