Skip to Content

One Reason It's Hotter in Poorer Neighborhoods: Fewer Trees

THURSDAY, April 29, 2021 -- Poor neighborhoods in the United States have fewer trees and are hotter than richer neighborhoods, new research shows.

In the study, the researchers assessed tree cover in the 100 largest urban areas of the country.

In nine out of 10 communities, there was less tree cover in low-income areas than in high-income areas. On average, low-income neighborhoods had about 15% less tree cover and were 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

"We had expected low-income and minority neighborhoods to have less tree cover and so be more at risk during summer heat waves, but we were still surprised and troubled at how widespread this tree inequality was, with 92% of communities having lower tree cover in low-income than in high-income areas," according to researcher Robert McDonald of The Nature Conservancy in Arlington, Va., and his colleagues.

The greatest disparities were in the Northeast, where low-income neighborhoods in some urban areas had 30% less tree cover and were 4°C hotter (7.2 degrees F) than high-income neighborhoods.

The researchers also found that neighborhoods with higher percentages of people of color had less tree cover and hotter summer temperatures.

In total, low-income neighborhoods had 62 million fewer trees than comparable high-income neighborhoods, according to the study published online April 28 in the journal PLOS ONE.

A $17.6 billion investment in tree planting and natural regeneration could correct this disparity between low-income and high-income areas and benefit 42 million people, the researchers estimated.

Besides providing cooling and reducing the impact of heat waves, there's growing evidence that tree cover in cities has a number of health benefits for people, including lower levels of air pollution, better heart function and improved mental health, the study authors added in a journal news release.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Read this next

Many Americans Wrong About Sun's Skin Cancer Dangers: Poll

TUESDAY, May 4, 2021 -- You might think everybody knows how to protect themselves from the sun's harmful rays, but a new survey reveals that one-third of Americans lack a basic...

Heat Waves Topping 132 Degrees F Likely in Middle East Without Action on Climate Change

FRIDAY, April 30, 2021 -- The Middle East and North Africa are already among the hottest spots on the planet, but new research warns that if nothing is done to slow climate change...

Teen Tanning Bed Ban Would Prevent Thousands of U.S. Melanoma Cases

WEDNESDAY, April 14, 2021 -- A U.S.-wide ban on teen use of tanning beds would prevent thousands of cases of skin cancer and save millions in health care costs, researchers...

More News Resources

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Whatever your topic of interest, subscribe to our newsletters to get the best of in your inbox.