Ethnic differences in ecological concerns: Spanish-speaking Hispanics are more concerned than others

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We postulated that environmental concern encompasses a wide range of different issues, often lumping pollution with habitat loss (or land use) and ecological resources (fish and wildlife). In this paper, we compare perceptions about a range of environmental and ecological resource issues, and explore ethnic/racial differences. We surveyed 1513 residents of New Jersey about "environmental concerns", using both general environmental questions (two questions: How serious are environmental problems in New Jersey? Are you concerned about the loss of open space?) and ecological resource questions (12 questions: e.g., how important is planting trees in your neighborhood, how concerned are you about loss of breeding and feeding habitat for fish and birds?) in New Jersey. Not all concerns were rated equally. For the ecological questions, there were no ethnic differences in concerns over preserving areas around water supplies, loss of places to hunt and fish, and loss of places for quiet walks and cycling, but there were for the other 9 ecological concerns. For eight of these nine concerns, Spanish-speaking Hispanics were more concerned than others (including English-speaking Hispanics). We divided the ecological resources into three categories: ecological services (clean water and safety), ecological resources (fish and wildlife), and recreational services. The strongest correlates of people's association with enlarging and enhancing recreational services were Spanish-speaking Hispanics, who are supportive of regulations and believe local government is not doing enough for environmental problems. People concerned about the loss of ecological resources and open space believe the federal government and the state are not doing enough for the environment, were non-Hispanic White, want continued environmental regulations, were longer-term residents, were high school graduates, and were older (45-54 years). People interested in ecological services were college-educated, non-White, not rich, females that did not trust DEP's environmental actions, and thought the state was not doing enough environmentally. There was a high correlation between general environmental concern and the ecological resource variables for the population overall, and for each ethnic group. Overall, only 39% of the subjects were very concerned about the seriousness of environmental problems in New Jersey, yet from 36% to 81% of the people were very concerned about 11 of 12 ecological issues. This indicates that people respond different to the term "environmental problems" compared to specific "ecological resource" issues. The greatest concern (81%) was for preserving areas around water supplies and cleaning up garbage in the parks, and the least concern was for the loss of places to hunt and fish (26%). Our results indicate that people distinguish between general environmental concern and ecological concerns, as well as distinguishing ecological services from ecological resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


  • Concerns
  • Ecological resources
  • Ecological services
  • Ethnic/racial differences
  • Hispanic


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