Panel Paper: A Green Classroom Environment? – Assessing Students and Communities’ Equitable Access to Green Schools

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Johnson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Shuang Zhao, University of Alabama, Huntsville, Shan Zhou, Michigan Technological University and Douglas Noonan, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Research has shown that roughly 50% of public schools, which are disproportionally serving low-income communities and students of color, have at least one unsatisfactory environmental conditions (Everett Jones, Brener, & McManus, 2003). Green schools offer an alternative to address suboptimal standard problem of schools. However, building green schools is expensive and their new construction locational choice may be more constrained by financial resources than equity concerns. This research project examines the spatial distribution of green schools and what kind of neighborhoods tend to construct and host them.

Leveraging several comprehensive datasets including students’ enrollment data from National Center for Education Statistics, green building data from the US Green Building Council, and communities’ characteristics data from US census, we estimate a set of logit models to predict the spatial correlation of green schools and students and neighborhoods’ demographics. Specifically, we ask the following questions. For over-600 educational buildings that are LEED-certified at various levels, what kinds of neighborhood are more likely to host them? For children who enrolled in different types of schools, which socioeconomic groups are more likely to enroll in and benefit from green schools? In our analysis, we specifically distinguish public and private schools to allow us to probe whether ownership has an impact on equity consideration when schools are going green.

Unlike conventional EJ literature that focuses on negative externality, this research advances the EJ literature by focusing on positive environmental conditions and their relationship with communities. This study is also innovative in analyzing green buildings from an EJ perspective. Additionally, although children are protected class under federal guidelines, they have rarely become the main focus of EJ studies. The results produced from this study can help inform school siting practices and justify investment in greener schools for underserved populations.