Disparities in exposure to surrounding greenness related to proportion of the population that were immigrants to the United States

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2020 Mar;224:113434. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2019.113434. Epub 2019 Dec 18.


The proportion of the United States (US) population who are immigrants (i.e., foreign-born) has been rising. Compared to the US-born, immigrants have different health risks, and prior studies could not fully explain these differences by diet and socioeconomic status. Surrounding greenness, an environmental exposure linked to better health, potentially contributes to differences in health risks between immigrants and the US-born. Using satellite imagery, we assessed exposure to surrounding greenness, as estimated by the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and enhanced vegetation index (EVI), in US Census tracts in 2000 and 2010. We then investigated the association between the percentage of the population that were immigrants and greenness using spatial error regression. Adjusted for median household income, urbanicity, educational attainment, unemployment, elderly and youth population proportion, and ecozone, Census tracts with ~10% higher overall immigrant percentage points were, on average, ~0.06 NDVI/EVI interquartile range lower, indicating lower greenness. The pattern of negative associations was most consistent when the immigrant country of origin was in Latin America. Conversely, when the immigrant country of origin was in Europe, we found mostly positive associations. Our findings suggest an environmental exposure disparity by immigrant status, motivating future work on environmental contributions to health disparities between immigrants and the US-born.

Keywords: Environmental disparity; Green space; Immigrant health; Normalized difference vegetation index; Spatial regression; Surrounding greenness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aged
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environment
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States