a spatially explicit approach to the study of socio-demographic inequality in the spatial distribution of trees across Boston neighborhoods

Giuseppe Arbia, Dustin Duncan, Ichiro Kawaki, Susan Kum, Jared Aldstadt, Gianfranco Piras, Stephen Mathews, Marcia Castro, Kellee White, David Williams

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivistapeer review


The racial/ethnic and income composition of neighborhoods often influences local amenities, including the potential spatial distribution of trees, which are important for population health and community wellbeing, particularly in urban areas. This ecological study used spatial analytical methods to assess the relationship between neighborhood socio-demographic characteristics (i.e. minority racial/ethnic composition and poverty) and tree density at the census tract level in Boston, Massachusetts (US). We examined spatial autocorrelation with the Global Moran’s I for all study variables and in the ordinary least squares (OLS) regression residuals as well as computed Spearman correlations non-adjusted and adjusted for spatial autocorrelation between socio-demographic characteristics and tree density. Next, we fit traditional regressions (i.e. OLS regression models) and spatial regressions (i.e. spatial simultaneous autoregressive models), as appropriate. We found significant positive spatial autocorrelation for all neighborhood sociodemographic characteristics (Global Moran’s I range from 0.24 to 0.86, all P=0.001), for tree density (Global Moran’s I=0.452, P=0.001), and in the OLS regression residuals (Global Moran’s I range from 0.32 to 0.38, all P<0.001). Therefore, we fit the spatial simultaneous autoregressive models. There was a negative correlation between neighborhood percent non-Hispanic Black and tree density (rS=-0.19; conventional Pvalue= 0.016; spatially adjusted P-value=0.299) as well as a negative correlation between predominantly non-Hispanic Black (over 60% Black) neighborhoods and tree density (rS=-0.18; conventional Pvalue= 0.019; spatially adjusted P-value=0.180). While the conventional OLS regression model found a marginally significant inverse relationship between Black neighborhoods and tree density, we found no statistically significant relationship between neighborhood socio-demographic composition and tree density in the spatial regression models. Methodologically, our study suggests the need to take into account spatial autocorrelation as findings/conclusions can change when the spatial autocorrelation is ignored. Substantively, our findings suggest no need for policy intervention vis-à-vis trees in Boston, though we hasten to add that replication studies, and more nuanced data on tree quality, age and diversity are needed.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)1-29
Numero di pagine29
Rivistaspatial demography
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2014


  • neighborhood poverty
  • neighborhood racial/ethnic composition
  • racial/socioeconomic
  • spatial demography
  • spatial econometrics
  • trees,


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