Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Public Policy
This thesis examines disparities in water affordability in North Carolina by racial and ethnic groups via a quantitative analysis of a nine-year water provider-level, panel data set. I utilize regression analyses to answer the question “after controlling for demographic and financial characteristics and year fixed-effects, what is the relationship between minority presence and water bill prices in North Carolina?” This analysis is motivated by the United States’ water affordability crisis and its documented disproportionate impact on non-white communities. Given that there are no federal nor state protections from water shutoffs, possible affordability disparities mean that racial and/or ethnic minority North Carolinians are at greater risk of losing access to water.
From my regression models, I observe that one percentage point increases in a county’s Black population increases the cost of both water and wastewater bills, while one percentage point increase in a county’s Latine residents decreases the price of water and wastewater bills, with the disparity being greater for wastewater bills. These results indicate that Black North Carolinians face disproportionate water affordability challenges due to systemic inequalities in wastewater infrastructure quality. These affordability disparities are augmented by Black North Carolinians’ disproportionately lower median incomes, increasing water affordability challenges for these individuals. These findings motivate the need for shut-off protections, targeted affordability assistance, and infrastructure investment.