Environmental Management

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 402–419 | Cite as

An Ecology of Prestige in New York City: Examining the Relationships Among Population Density, Socio-economic Status, Group Identity, and Residential Canopy Cover

  • J. Morgan GroveEmail author
  • Dexter H. LockeEmail author
  • Jarlath P. M. O’Neil-Dunne


Several social theories have been proposed to explain the uneven distribution of vegetation in urban residential areas: population density, social stratification, luxury effect, and ecology of prestige. We evaluate these theories using a combination of demographic and socio-economic predictors of vegetative cover on all residential lands in New York City. We use diverse data sources including the City’s property database, time-series demographic and socio-economic data from the US Census, and land cover data from the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL). These data are analyzed using a multi-model inferential, spatial econometrics approach. We also examine the distribution of vegetation within distinct market categories using Claritas’ Potential Rating Index for Zipcode Markets (PRIZM™) database. These categories can be disaggregated, corresponding to the four social theories. We compare the econometric and categorical results for validation. Models associated with ecology of prestige theory are more effective for predicting the distribution of vegetation. This suggests that private, residential patterns of vegetation, reflecting the consumption of environmentally relevant goods and services, are associated with different lifestyles and lifestages. Further, our spatial and temporal analyses suggest that there are significant spatial and temporal dependencies that have theoretical and methodological implications for understanding urban ecological systems. These findings may have policy implications. Decision makers may need to consider how to most effectively reach different social groups in terms of messages and messengers in order to advance land management practices and achieve urban sustainability.


Urban ecology Urban forestry Private land Parcel Geodemographics Urban tree canopy 



Most of this work was conducted at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, with support from the Carpenter-Sperry Award. This research was also supported by the National Science Foundation grant for the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long Term Ecological Research site (DEB-0423476). The manuscript was made better with helpful comments provided by Sophie Plitt (NYC Department of Parks & Recreation), Colin Polsky (Clark University), Nancy Falxa-Raymond, Lynne Westphal, (USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station), Darrel Jenerette (University of California Riverside) and Shawn Landry (University of South Florida).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Baltimore Field StationUMBCBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Graduate School of GeographyClark UniversityWorcesterUSA
  3. 3.Spatial Analysis LaboratoryUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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