Income Inequality is Visible from Space

This is a picture of a poorer neighborhood in Houston called Fourth Ward. Now compare that image to the photo below of a more wealthy neighborhood in Houston, River Oaks. Do you notice a difference?

That is right! Income inequality is visible from space largely due to the difference in amount of green and trees. It turns out that trees are a type of luxury item – reserved for wealthier cities and neighborhoods.

Tim De Chant at The Per Square Mile blog recently wrote about research studies conducted all over the world looking at the correlation between per capita wealth and number of trees, and then found examples of such differences using Google Earth.

Tim De Chant wrote:

Research published a few years ago shows a tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover.

…They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent. But when income dropped by the same amount, demand decreased by 1.26 percent. That’s a pretty tight correlation. The researchers reason that wealthier cities can afford more trees, both on private and public property. The well-to-do can afford larger lots, which in turn can support more trees. On the public side, cities with larger tax bases can afford to plant and maintain more trees.

And think about further implications of these findings. The number of trees and amount of vegetation surely affects air quality (and thus may affect lung function and asthma), amount of shade in the summer, individual happiness, stress and quality of life and maybe even crime.

See more Google Earth photos.

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