Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Environmental Research Letters

Publication Date



Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd.





First Page


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Last Page



This study advances research at the intersection of environmental degradation, social stratification, and population health in the United States. Expanding the theoretical principles of power, proximity, and physiology, we hypothesize that the harmful effect of fine particulate matter on life expectancy is greater in states with higher levels of income inequality and larger black populations. To test our hypothesis, we use two-way fixed effects regression analysis to estimate the effect of a three-way interaction between fine particulate matter, income share of the top ten percent, and the percent of the population that is black on state-level average life expectancy for all US states and the District of Columbia (2000–2014). The findings support our hypothesis: the estimated effect of the three-way interaction on average life expectancy is negative and statistically significant, net of various socioeconomic and demographic controls. Using post-estimation techniques, we visually illustrate that the harmful effect of fine particulate matter on life expectancy is especially pronounced in states with both very high levels of income inequality and very large black populations. We conclude by summarizing the theoretical and substantive implications of our findings, the limitations of the study, and potential next steps in this evolving area of interdisciplinary research.