Early childcare and education in a post-industrial landscape: Inequalities in exposure to active and relic manufacturing in metropolitan Providence, Rhode Island

Tollefson, J., Frickel, S., Gonsalves, S., Marlow, T., Sucsy, R., Byrns, M., and Orpen-Tuz, M.

Environmental Justice | PDF

Abstract Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental health risks associated with industrial contamination, and early childcare and education (ECE) facilities are important sites for potential exposure to environmental contaminants. Emerging research on historic urban industry has additionally demonstrated that urban environmental risk accumulates historically and spatially across urban landscapes. Accordingly, this study pairs cross-sectional data on licensed childcare facilities with longitudinal manufacturing site data in Providence, Rhode Island. We use these data to investigate the proximity of ECE facilities to active and relic manufacturing sites, controlling for a range of organizational- and tract-level characteristics. Results show that type of childcare facility (center-based vs. in-home) and language of instruction (Spanish vs. English) are important predictors of children’s proximity to industrial lands, past and present. These findings indicate that Spanish-speaking children in Providence may experience a “double jeopardy” in the form of disproportionate legacy environmental hazards at ECE as well as at home—suggesting that the historical nature of urban industrial land use is an important mechanism of environmental inequality for young children.