The New York Times: Since When Have Trees Existed Only for Rich Americans?

The New York Times, July 6, 2021, Since When Have Trees Existed Only for Rich Americans?

Across the nation, the wealthier and whiter your neighborhood is, the greener the view from your window is likely to be. This map shows a healthy tree canopy in Philadelphia, based on analysis by EarthDefine.

Chestnut Hill is one of the most prestigious areas in the city. This corner of it with a median household income of about $133,000 enjoys lush greenery and cooling shade, with more than 60 percent of the surface covered in trees.

Just five miles away, in a part of Nicetown-Tioga, where the median household income is roughly $37,000, trees cover only 6 percent of the area. The average temperature is more than 10 degrees higher.

Decades ago, this area was “redlined” and classified as “D” by the federal government limiting investments and economic growth because of its racial makeup.

Such discriminatory practices still shape our cities and, along with income inequality, define who can enjoy a healthy tree canopy and who is surrounded by concrete.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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