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Can You Tell the Difference Between Rich and Poor Neighborhoods in These Satellite Images?


Hint: look at the trees

Piedmont area of Oakland, Calif. (Image: Google Earth via Per Square Mile)

There are often stark differences between the looks of wealthy and poor neighborhoods. But one of the features that you might not have considered as a defining factor are trees.

Tim DeChant for Per Square Mile, a blog about density, says that richer neighborhoods have more trees than those less well off. He writes:

Research published a few years ago shows a tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover. The study’s authors tallied total forest cover for 210 cities over 100,000 people in the contiguous United States using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s natural resource inventory and satellite imagery. They also gathered economic data, including income, land prices, and disposable income.

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. Given the recent problems New York City has had with its aging trees dropping limbs on unsuspecting passers-by—and the lawsuits that result—it’s no surprise that poorer cities would keep lean tree inventories.

DeChant then wanted to see -- literally -- if you could tell the difference between richer and poorer areas based on tree coverage. He took to Google Earth in order to peer down on neighborhoods via satellite, and here's what he found:

Can you tell the difference?

See more of DeChant's comparison photos here. Per Square Mile is a blog that, according to its description, is "about what happens when people live like packed sardines. It’s also about what happens when people live so far apart they can go days without seeing another soul. It’s about living amongst trees and prairies, and living in places miles away from them. It’s about the trees and the prairies, too. And lakes and streams and animals and insects."

[H/T Business Insider]

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