Dr. Stefan Jünger found links between living in areas with environmental disadvantages; a person’s income; and whether they or their parents migrated to Germany. Land use disadvantages decrease with higher income. Whereas environmental advantages can be defined as a person’s access to green spaces such as parks, sporting areas, or gardens, environmental disadvantages relate to the amounts of blacktop, concrete, and buildings in a location. Areas with high amounts of these types of materials and objects have fewer recreational green spaces.
Native-born Germans and higher-income migrants experienced fewer environmental disadvantages while low-income migrants mainly experienced significantly higher disadvantages. Jünger, a geo-data specialist at GESIS, combined survey data from the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS) with small-scale spatial data. His conclusions should interest local planners and policymakers when cities, towns, and other municipalities want to enhance the number of recreational areas to compensate for the deleterious effects of other land use.
Dr. Stefan Jünger konnte in seiner Arbeit einen Zusammenhang vom Leben in Gebieten mit Umweltnachteilen, dem Einkommen einer Person und der Frage, ob sie oder ihre Eltern nach Deutschland eingewandert sind, nachweisen. Die Nachteile der Landnutzung nehmen mit steigendem Einkommen ab. Während Umweltvorteile durch den Zugang zu Grünflächen wie Parks, Sportplätzen oder Gärten definiert werden können, beziehen sich Umweltnachteile auf die Menge an Asphalt, Beton und Gebäuden in einem Gebiet. In Gebieten mit einem hohen Anteil dieser Materialien und Objekte gibt es weniger Grünflächen zur Erholung.
In Deutschland geborene Personen und Migrant*innen mit höherem Einkommen haben weniger Umweltnachteile, während Migrant*innen mit niedrigem Einkommen deutlich höhere Nachteile haben. Jünger, Geodatenspezialist bei GESIS, kombinierte Befragungsdaten aus der Allgemeinen Bevölkerungsumfrage der Sozialwissenschaften (ALLBUS) mit kleinräumigen Daten. Seine Ergebnisse dürften für kommunale Planung und politische Entscheidungen von Interesse sein, wenn Städte und Gemeinden mehr Naherholungsgebiete schaffen wollen, um die negativen Auswirkungen anderer Flächennutzungen zu kompensieren.
In his article, “Land use disadvantages in Germany: A matter of ethnic income inequalities?” Jünger found that a person’s income and their migration background both help explain who lives in areas of environmental advantage in Germany, and who doesn’t. Whether or not German residents experience residential segregation has been under-researched due to a lack of data. Jünger combined survey data from the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS) with small-scale spatial data to combine household-level data with information on green spaces and what percentage of land is covered by buildings, concrete, and blacktop.1
What Are Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages?
Research on environmental inequalities often addresses direct hazards to health and well-being, such as environmental noise or air pollution. Income plays an essential role in the housing market by determining how much people can afford to buy or rent properties, and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods are more often affected by environmental disadvantages than wealthy ones.
Previous studies tried to assess environmental hazards – a more direct threat to people’s health and well-being – however, the purpose of this study was to assess the data for environmental inequalities. Jünger’s study concentrated on the environmental “goods” and “bads” stemming from land use.
Two measures were used to assess whether people live with environmental advantages or disadvantages. The first measure was of an environmental advantage. This measured a person’s access to green spaces. Green space is a term used to describe areas of grass, bushes, and trees, such as parks, sporting areas, or gardens.
The second was a measure of ‘soil sealing’, a term used to describe air- and water-tight coverage of soil. Examples of these are blacktop, concrete, and buildings. Soil sealing is an indicator of neighborhood quality because areas with high amounts of soil sealing have fewer recreational green spaces. Accordingly, soil sealing was defined as a land use disadvantage because of a lack of green spaces.
Findings: Lower Income and Migration Backgrounds Are Linked to More Environmental Disadvantages
The analysis showed that land use disadvantages decrease with higher income. The data also revealed that Germans and higher-income migrants experienced fewer environmental disadvantages. Low-income migrants mainly experience significantly higher disadvantages.
The results of this study had multiple implications. A high income eliminates some ethnic inequality experienced by migrant residents, but as incomes decline inequalities appear and persist. High-income German migrants, or those whose parents were migrants, are more likely to experience environmental disadvantages than high-income Germans. In the end, income matters, but since migrants make up a larger proportion of lower-income earners in Germany, a larger percentage of migrants experience environmental disadvantage.
These results should be of great interest to policymakers as they try to determine which mechanisms are in place when people use income as a vehicle to move to a new neighborhood. When cities, towns, and other municipalities want to enhance the number of recreational areas to compensate for the deleterious effects of other land use, they should also consider the inequality dimension of such efforts, according to Jünger.
“Land use disadvantages in Germany: A matter of ethnic income inequalities?” is available for free under an Open Access article in Urban Studies: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/00420980211023206
- Information on accessing the ALLBUS regional data and small-scale geodata can be found here: https://www.gesis.org/en/allbus/download/regional-data-geodata-methodological-studies