Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2023

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


This paper addresses the issue of the historical and present-day built environment in the Chicago metropolitan area, its roots in environmental racism, and impacts on community health. Chapter 1 utilizes mapping of Chicago to analyze U.S. Census and public health data, drawing conclusions based on community area residential patterns and demographics. Chapter 2 explores the origins of zoning practices in the United States and environmental history of Chicago, tracing the immediate impacts of the built environment and today’s community impacts. Chapter 3 dives into the political background of the built environment and city zoning in Chicago, with particular attention to political corruption and its impacts on residential segregation and environmental racism. Chapter 4 establishes the environmental health penalties resulting from disinvestment in urban settings and historical neglect of low-income communities and communities of color, analyzing the public health inequities resulting from city zoning and what urban design frameworks for reinvestment other metropolitan regions are integrating. Drawing on the discussions and implications from the previous chapters, Chapter 5 lays out the recommendations to increase health equity for at risk urban communities based on municipal policy changes and preventative measures.