Center for American Progress

RELEASE: New Report Shows Racial and Economic Disparities in Access to Nature
Press Release

RELEASE: New Report Shows Racial and Economic Disparities in Access to Nature

Washington, D.C. — A new report from the Center for American Progress and the Hispanic Access Foundation finds that people of color, low-income communities, and families with children are most likely to be deprived of the benefits that nature provides.

The report, which analyzes new data from Conservation Science Partners, comes as the nation’s reckoning with racism and violence against Black people has brought environmental injustices and disparities into greater focus.

Among the key findings:

  • Communities of color are three times more likely than white communities to live in a place that is nature deprived. In other words, 74 percent of communities of color in the contiguous United States live in nature-deprived areas, compared with just 23 percent of white communities.
  • Seventy percent of low-income communities across the country live in nature-deprived areas—20 percent higher than communities with moderate or high incomes.
  • Nature destruction has had the largest impact on low-income communities of color: More than 76 percent of low-income communities of color live in nature-deprived places.

“This report makes clear that we live in a country where the color of one’s skin or the size of one’s bank account is a solid predictor of whether one has safe access to nature and all its benefits,” said Jenny Rowland-Shea, senior policy analyst for Public Lands at CAP and co-author of the report. “That a community of color is three times more likely to live in nature deprivation than their white counterparts does not happen by chance. As local and national leaders attempt to address the climate and nature crises, they must acknowledge the legacy of environmental racism and pursue policies that are centered in justice and equity.”

State-level data show that in 26 states, Black communities experienced the highest levels of nature deprivation. In almost two-thirds of states, low-income residents were most likely to live in nature-deprived areas.

“At a time when Latinos and other communities of color are disproportionately suffering from COVID-19 and the myriad impacts of racism, this report highlights that they are also missing out on the health, economic, and resilience benefits of having nature nearby,” said Shanna Edberg, director of conservation programs for the Hispanic Access Foundation. “We must take the findings of the report as a call to action to protect and restore our natural areas in an inclusive and equitable way, ensuring that they are close, accessible, and welcome to all.”

Read the report: “The Nature Gap: Confronting Racial and Economic Disparities in the Destruction and Protection of Nature in America” by Jenny Rowland-Shea, Sahir Doshi, Shanna Edberg, and Robert Fanger

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at [email protected].

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