Nature inequity and higher COVID-19 case rates in less-green neighbourhoods in the United States

Summary

Urban nature—such as greenness and parks—can alleviate distress and provide space for safe recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, nature is often less available in low-income populations and communities of colour—the same communities hardest hit by COVID-19. In analyses of two datasets, we quantified inequity in greenness and park proximity across all urbanized areas in the United States and linked greenness and park access to COVID-19 case rates for ZIP codes in 17 states. Areas with majority persons of colour had both higher case rates and less greenness. Furthermore, when controlling for sociodemographic variables, an increase of 0.1 in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index was associated with a 4.1% decrease in COVID-19 incidence rates (95% confidence interval: 0.9–6.8%). Across the United States, block groups with lower income and majority persons of colour are less green and have fewer parks. Our results demonstrate that the communities most impacted by COVID-19 also have the least nature nearby. Given that urban nature is associated with both human health and biodiversity, these results have far-reaching implications both during and beyond the pandemic.

Information

Link to centre authors: McPhearson, Timon
Publication info: Spotswood, E., Benjamin, M., Stoneburner, L., Wheeler, M., Beller, E., Balk, D., McPhearson, T., Kuo, M., McDonald, R.. 2021. Nature inequity and higher COVID-19 case rates in less-green neighbourhoods in the United States. Nature Sustainability. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00781-9