2022 journal article

Equally green? Understanding the distribution of urban green infrastructure across student demographics in four public school districts in North Carolina, USA

Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 67, 127434.

author keywords: Environmental justice; Green schoolyards; Green infrastructure; Social vulnerability index; Tree canopy
Source: ORCID
Added: November 29, 2021

Green infrastructure (GI) provides a suite of ecosystem services that are widely recognized as critical to health, well-being, and sustainability on an urbanizing planet. However, the distribution of GI across urban landscapes is frequently uneven, resulting in unequal delivery of these services to low-income residents or those belonging to underserved racial/ethnic identities. While GI distribution has been identified as unequal across municipalities, we investigated whether this was true in public schoolyards within and among urban school districts. We examined schoolyards in four metropolitan areas of diverse socio-economic and demographic compositions in North Carolina, USA to determine if they provided equal exposure to GI, then compared whether this was true of the broader urban landscape. We first classified the land cover of elementary schoolyards and their neighborhoods, then used bivariate and multivariate approaches to analyze the relationships between GI (i.e. tree canopy cover and total GI) and the socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity of the schools and surrounding neighborhoods, respectively. We found that the extent of tree canopy cover and total GI in schoolyards was unrelated to the socioeconomic status and the race/ethnicity of students across the four school districts. In contrast, neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic status and larger populations of underserved race/ethnicity residents had less tree canopy cover and total GI. Although total GI was more evenly distributed in schoolyards, the extent of tree canopy cover and total GI in schoolyards was lower than that in the neighborhoods. This suggests opportunities for school districts to expand GI in schoolyards, leveraging their potential to increase ecosystem services to all children, from increased educational opportunities to improved mental, physical, and environmental well-being.