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To what extent does the density of the tree cover in a city relate to the amount of social capital among neighbors? To address this question, we linked social survey data (N = 361) from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study with socioeconomic, urban form, and green space data at the census block group level using a geographic information system.

We found a systematically positive relationship between the density of urban tree canopy at the neighborhood block group level and the amount of social capital at the individual level (r = .241, p < .01). Multiple regression analyses showed that tree canopy added a 22.72% increase in explanatory power to the model for social capital. This research adds a new variable—neighborhood tree canopy—to the typologies of green space that affect human social connection.

Trees are a relatively inexpensive and easy intervention to enhance the strength of social ties among neighbors.

Meghan T. Holtan, Susan Dieterlen, William C. Sullivan

Social Life Under Cover: Tree Canopy and Social Capital in Baltimore, Maryland
January 2014, Environment and Behavior 47(5):1-24

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