- A new report from Data-Driven Yale, the Urban Environment and Social Inclusion Index (UESI), indicates that low-income neighborhoods around the world bear a disproportionate share of environmental burdens.
- The index examined five areas of environmental concern: air quality, climate change, water and sanitation, urban ecosystem and transportation. It compared data from 30 global cities — including the U.S. cities of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles — and looked at individual indicators such as tree cover, public transit accessibility and wastewater treatment.
- Researchers concluded that although many of the cities performed well on environmental indicators, they didn't achieve results in an equitable way. Cities generally performed well in areas like public transit and poorly in wastewater treatment and air pollution.
Researchers have long contended that low-income communities suffer greater environmental consequences than high-income neighborhoods. Poor neighborhoods are less likely to receive greater investments in new or innovative services or urban greening, which is said to reduce pollution and increase citizens' health. Low-income neighborhoods also are more likely to be positioned near industrial areas and major road thoroughfares, both of which produce a lot of air pollution. They also are more likely to have an underinvestment in transit compared to high-income areas.
The UESI data breakdown corroborates and further quantifies these claims. It analyzes a variety of data sets including open-source geospatial data and census information. It aims to easily show leaders data about environmental indicators at the neighborhood level instead of the greater city level because it provides a richer picture and better identifies areas with gaps. Better data can help leaders make more effective policy decisions and distribute services and improvements where they are needed most.
UESI is one of many emerging innovations and technologies that cities can use to crunch the numbers and tackle environmental inequity. Private partners also can help cities gather and analyze data on key environmental indicators. For example, some companies make vehicle-mounted air sensors that help cities determine where pollution is worst at the street level, in addition to exactly which gases are in each neighborhood's emissions.