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Race, Ethnicity, Income Concentration and 10-Year Change in Urban Greenness in the United States


Background: Cross-sectional studies suggest urban greenness is unequally distributed by neighborhood demographics. However, the extent to which inequalities in greenness have changed over time remains unknown. Methods: We estimated 2001 and 2011 greenness using Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite-derived normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI) in 59,483 urban census tracts in the contiguous U.S. We fit spatial error models to estimate the association between baseline census tract demographic composition in 2000 and (1) 2001 greenness and (2) change in greenness between 2001 and 2011. Results: In models adjusted for population density, climatic factors, housing tenure, and Index of Concentration at the Extremes for income (ICE), an SD increase in percent White residents (a 30% increase) in 2000 was associated with 0.021 (95% CI: 0.018, 0.023) higher 2001 NDVI. We observed a stepwise reduction in 2001 NDVI with increased concentration of poverty. Tracts with a higher proportion of Hispanic residents in 2000 lost a small, statistically significant amount of greenness between 2001 and 2011 while tracts with higher proportions of Whites experienced a small, statistically significant increase in greenness over the same period. Conclusions: Census tracts with a higher proportion of racial/ethnic minorities, compared to a higher proportion of White residents, had less greenness in 2001 and lost more greenness between 2001 and 2011. Policies are needed to increase greenness, a health-promoting neighborhood asset, in disadvantaged communities.

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