Architecture and Planning ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-11-2018


This thesis explores the question of whether correlations between socioeconomic indicators and health and environmental indicators can be observed at the metropolitan level of analysis. Indicators are considered both in terms of per capita values and scale-adjusted values. Scale-adjusted values are a concept based on research on urban scaling which account for the agglomeration effect of population on socioeconomic output and describe a city’s performance in terms of how it compares with expected performance on an indicator for its population size based on the power law scaling of that indicator to population. These indicators provide an alternative baseline for comparing the relative economic performance of cities of different sizes. Considering these scale-adjusted indicators a potentially more meaningful measure of socioeconomic performance, they were expected to correlate with health and environmental outcomes better than per capita values, although this was only true for median household income.

One of the questions driving this inquiry was whether the theory of urban scaling might be useful in explaining the variation in indicators which do not scale with population, but which have been shown in other research to relate to socioeconomic factors. In this study, those factors are air quality, tree cover and twelve health outcomes and risk factors collected by the CDC. In all but a few cases, stronger correlations could be seen with per capita socioeconomic values than with scale-adjusted values.

Data for metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas were gathered on a wide range of socioeconomic indicators and tested for correlations with health and environmental outcomes. Socioeconomic data that scaled with population were also calculated as a scale-adjusted metropolitan indicator (SAMI) value and tested for correlations with health and environmental outcomes. The expectation was that SAMI values would help explain health and environmental outcomes, which was found generally not to be true. From the data, however, some correlations between socioeconomic and health indicators could be observed, while tree canopy and impervious surface showed inconsistent correlations with health and economic indicators in different ecoregions.



Document Type


Degree Name

Community and Regional Planning

Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Architecture and Planning

First Committee Member (Chair)

Bill Fleming

Second Committee Member

Caroline Scruggs

Third Committee Member

Richard Epstein


Urban scaling, public health, tree canopy, socioeconomic performance, health risk factors, social networks