New Tool: Mapping Environmental Justice Communities in the Northeast
Synapse has developed an interactive GIS StoryMap which applies Massachusetts’ Environmental Justice (EJ) criteria to seven other states in the Northeast. This offers policymakers and stakeholders a tool to better understand EJ communities and policies throughout the region.
EJ definitions can vary across states and other organizations. Our StoryMap relies on the Massachusetts criteria because (a) it is similar to EJ criteria proposed in other northeastern states, (b) the criteria can be applied to a map, and (c) data is available to map said criteria from the American Census Survey (ACS). Massachusetts defines EJ communities at the ACS block group level. In our StoryMap, a block group is identified as an EJ community if it meets one or more of the following criteria:
- Annual median income is less than or equal to 65 percent of the statewide annual median household income (note: annual median household income varies for each of the states in our StoryMap);
- Over 40 percent of the population self-identifies as a minority;
- At least 25 percent of the households lack English language proficiency; or
- Over 25 percent of the population identifies as minority and the annual median household income is less than 150 percent of the statewide annual median household income (note: annual median household income varies for each of the states in our StoryMap).1,2
Several states in the Northeast, including Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont, have already established their own EJ criteria. As of June 2022, New York and Rhode Island are in the process of creating their own EJ criteria. Some of the definitions being used or considered in these states include criteria about educational attainment, ambient pollution, proximity to sites with a degraded environment, population change, and housing stock characteristics.
Maine has a definition of EJ but has not established criteria to identify individual EJ communities within the state as of June 2022. New Hampshire has not established or proposed any EJ criteria or definition as of June 2022.
For more information about EJ in the Northeast, view our StoryMap tool.
1 MassGIS (Bureau of Geographic Information). June 2021. “MassGIS Data: 2020 Environmental Justice Populations.”
2 Massachusetts defines “Minority” as an individual who self-identifies as non-white, or as Hispanic or Latino.