Assessing relationships between urban tree canopy and demographics in Boston, MA

Type: Poster Presentation
Date: November 2022


Roxanne James. “Assessing relationships between urban tree canopy and demographics in Boston, MA”. Presented at the 2022 APHA Annual Meeting and Expo (poster). Boston, MA.


Study Purpose:
Throughout the United States, there is a large uptick among municipalities in metropolitan areas implementing urban forestry management plans. Specifically, within the forest management plans, there is a drive to increase the area of urban tree canopy (UTC) with the hope to address issues surrounding climate change such as neighborhood property prices, mean heat indexes, and people’s mental and physical health.
Research into urban forestry management plans has revealed vast public health and environmental benefits of UTC. However, coverage is disproportionately low in poor and minority urban populations, implying that these populations do not equitably enjoy public environmental amenities. We aimed to quantify the inequitable distribution of UTC in Boston.
Using land cover, spatial data, and census data we were able to estimate the association of UTC, racial disparities, and socioeconomic disparities in Boston between the years 2014 and 2019. GIS data layers of the census block groups were derived from the 2010 US Census TIGER and the City of Boston’s UTC assessment completed in 2019. Health Data was analyzed at the Census Block Group levels using the CDC’s “PLACES: Local Data for Better Health dataset. Utilizing these data sets, we calculated and mapped the trends and association between UTC and Race, income, and health using Spearman’s correlation and OLS regressions.
After conducting bivariate correlations, African American and Black populations under the poverty line significantly negatively correlated with UTC in Boston, and people under the poverty line marginally significantly negatively correlated with UTC (Spearman correlation coefficient, r = -0.39, p < 0.001 and r = -0.10, p < 0.50).
The correlation between the distribution of UTC and socioeconomic variables varies significantly throughout the city of Boston. The city has the potential to create stronger regulations surrounding environmental justice and the distribution of environmental amenities.
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