Social Life Under Cover: Tree Canopy and Social Capital in Baltimore, Maryland

Holtan, M., Dieterlen, S., and Sullivan, W.

Holtan, M. T., Dieterlen, S. L., & Sullivan, W. C. (2015). Social life under cover: tree canopy and social capital in Baltimore, Maryland. Environment and behavior, 47(5), 502-525.

Ecosystem Services , Green Space , Neighborhoods , Social Capital , Tree Canopy

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.

Main finding
Multiple regression analysis showed that tree canopy cover added 22.72% explanatory power to the model for social capital.

Description of method used in the article
Neighborhoods was defined by the % of tree canopies. Residents were asked to score seven statements about their neighborhood on a scale from 1 to 5.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Urban Planning
Physical types
Geographic locations