Social Inequalities and GIS

The first LAGS lecture of the 2014-15 year started off with presentations by some Roosevelt High School students.  These students have been learning how to use GIS to map social inequalities, such as obesity, community gardens, PTSD and alcoholism in their local community, which is mostly minority and low income.

Other projects were also conducted by other students, involving personally relevant issues.

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Image from

These students were able to make these maps thanks to two groups, which donated materials and equipment: Foundation and Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI).

The first group who presented showed maps concerning the obesity epidemic found in Boyle Heights (BH).  The question the students asked was whether one’s economic status affected their likelihood of developing obesity.  They compared Boyle Heights with Pacific Palisades (PP), a higher income neighborhood.

They found that there were 11 fast food places in BH and only 1 gym while PP had 3 fast food places, all of which were subways, and 11 gyms.  BH residents spent about $130 annually on vegetables while PP residents spent $280 annually.  BH groceries sold about 15% of its produce a week while PP ones sold about 60%.

Overall the students data and maps, showed a fairly strong correlation between what people ate and their income level.

Obesity/Income Map for Boyle Heights.  Image from Boyle Heights Beat (online).

Obesity/Income Map for Boyle Heights. Image from Boyle Heights Beat (online).

Community gardens were the focus of the next group.  They explored community gardens in their local area ad found quite a few but they were usually small and rarely open.  The students commented on the abundance of vacant lots, which they suggested could be used for community gardens.

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Image from

The third group examined PTSD in young adolescents.  They said a lot of young people suffer from PTSD in low income communities where gang violence and shootings occur daily.  The students presenting this topic said they experience such events in their own lives.  As part of the study, they conducted an experiment where they popped balloons in a room full of students to gauge their reactions. The popping of a balloon is much like the sound of a gunshot, so they assumed that the students would have little reaction to the noise because of them being accustomed to gunshots in their neighborhoods.  The first pop produced reactions while subsequent ones did not.

The last group addressed the issue of alcoholism among both adults and young people.  These students walked around BH, taking note of every alcohol advertisement and liquor store they found.  Their final map showed how there was a noticeable clustering of both alcohol ads and liquor stores in BH.  But they also found that higher income people spent about as much on alcohol as low income people.

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Image from

For more information on this topic visit Boyle Heights Beat.


One thought on “Social Inequalities and GIS

  1. Pingback: Gentrification and Women in STEM – GeoMaster

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