Spatial Analyses of Households' Vulnerability towards Environmental Justice


The starting point for the SAVE project is to regard relationships between social segregation and environmental quality differing in its spatial distribution. To date studies on this relationship exist mainly in the USA and are subsumed under the concept of environmental justice. Relating the USA, it has been established that certain groups of society (e.g. Afro-Americans, Latinos) live in neighbourhoods with a poor environmental quality compared to the whole city region. One goal of the SAVE project is to transfer these findings to the German situation.

However, the SAVE project is to go beyond just identifying situations of environmental injustice. It aims at analysing causes of an unequal distribution of environmental quality on the household level. Therefore, the behaviour of households is being conceptualised based on the concept of vulnerability. This concept shows that certain households are more vulnerable towards environmental risks than others. Following findings of behavioural science vulnerability can be explained amongst others by coping-capacities and -strategies. The aim of the project is to identify different types of households representing the vulnerability of these households towards their local environmental situation. These findings are meant to be useful for approaches in planning and politics that take the vulnerability of their target population into account.


First results:

In the summer of 2006 a household survey was carried out in two suburbs of the city of Kassel. 116 households have been interviewed to get to know how they perceive the environmental quality of their neighbourhood and how they cope with it. This project was carried out together with meteorologists from Kassel University who measured noise immission and calculated air immission in the areas of investigation. Therefore the subjective answers of the interview could be put in relation to the objective measurement of the environmental quality. The research approach and methodology as well first results are published in a German report, in CESR-Paper 1.

One of the results of this study was the development of a coping-inventory. This coping-inventory systematises different coping actions. Figure 1 shows that in this model coping actions are divided in everyday coping, coping by construction and institutionalised coping.


This coping-inventory is the starting point for a new survey, that is at present under construction. Using a German-wide telephone survey the socio-demographic factors that determine the choice of a coping-strategy are to be identified. The survey starts from the assumption that next to household income, amongst others property-rights and migration background influence the choice of a coping action. The socio-demographic factors determine the vulnerability of a household towards its local environmental quality. Depending on the vulnerability of a household coping-options can be chosen more ore less in numbers and/or more or less in effectiveness

Project duration

January 2005  −  August 2012

Project management

Heike Köckler


FG Umweltmeteorologie, Fachbereich ASL, Uni Kassel