In two recently published studies by SPEA graduates, Bloomington Urban Forestry Research Group researchers Dr. Shannon Lea Watkins (Cal-San Francisco) and Dr. Ed Gerrish (U. of South Dakota) found significant evidence of both race- and income-based urban forest inequity.
Watkins & Gerrish
Race- based inequity was particularly high on public land, where city governments and nonprofits have the most influence. Methodological differences explained some of the variation across original studies.
Urban forestry professionals and city governments should consider the equity consequences of urban forestry activities. As cities increasingly invest in urban environmental resources, they have a choice: do they continue a status quo approach that perpetuates a system of environmental injustice, or do they engage underserved communities in environmental protection and in so doing, promote environmental and health justice? Given the sensitivity of results to study methodology, authors of future studies should be thoughtful in methodological choices and conduct robustness checks.
This is the most comprehensive study of urban forest inequity to date. Watkins and Gerrish analyzed the results of 67 original studies that had estimated the statistical relationship between urban forest cover and neighborhood sociodemographic characteristics. They used meta-analysis to summarize findings across original studies, adjusting for variation in methodology, study location, and research lens across studies. The studies are published in the Journal of Environmental Management and Landscape and Urban Planning.