Communities with lower socioeconomic status and higher prevalence of racial/ethnic minority populations are often more exposed to environmental pollutants. Although studies have shown associations between aircraft noise and property values and various health outcomes, little is known about how aircraft noise exposures are sociodemographically patterned.
Our aim was to describe characteristics of populations exposed to aviation noise by race/ethnicity, education, and income in the United States.
Aircraft noise contours characterized as day-night average sound level (DNL) were developed for 90 U.S. airports in 2010 for DNL in 1-dB(A) increments. We compared characteristics of exposed U.S. Census block groups at three thresholds (, , and ), assigned on the basis of the block group land area being within the threshold, vs. unexposed block groups near study airports. Comparisons were made across block group race/ethnicity, education, and income categories within the study areas (). We performed both multinomial and other various multivariable regression approaches, including models controlling for airport and models with random intercepts specifying within-airport effects and adjusting for airport-level means.
Aggregated across multiple airports, block groups with a higher Hispanic population had higher odds of being exposed to aircraft noise. For example, the multinomial analysis showed that a 10-percentage point increase in a block group's Hispanic population was associated with an increased odds ratio of 39% (95% CI: 25%, 54%) of being exposed to compared with block groups exposed to . Block groups with higher proportions of residents with only a high school education had higher odds of being exposed to aircraft noise. Results were robust across multiple regression approaches; however, there was substantial heterogeneity across airports.
These results suggest that across U.S. airports, there is indication of sociodemographic disparities in noise exposures. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP9307.