Theory suggests that poverty is visible from space

    Philadelinquency, a real estate blog covering the city’s vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties, has written a post about an interesting theory: poor neighborhoods are recognizable from space.

    While the theory began with the idea that it’s the lack of vegetation that helps to identify poverty-stricken neighborhoods around the globe, Philadelinquency sees the indicator as something else.


    In a photo-heavy piece illustrating their theory, Philadelinquency explains how dark versus light colored roofs, which are easily recognizable from aerial photographs tend to be visual indicators of the socio-economic differences between Philly neighborhoods.

    Dark roofing predominates in zones where building occupants are renting,” says the article. “Specifically: privately-owned low income rental. Because renters are not inclined to improve the roofing system of their building since they do not own the structure and aren’t responsible for the roof, that responsibility falls to the property owner. Because the property owner usually is not paying the electricity bill, there’s no direct incentive for the landlord to install a cool roof, as there’s no return on investment to the property owner because the owner doesn’t have a light bill to pay so long as there is a tenant inside. Further, the A/C is usually shut off or run infrequently between tenants.”

    “While looking at all of South Philadelphia you can see this plainly in western Point Breeze and the 5th Street corridor of South Philadelphia, the cool roof/dark roof contrast is highly visible between working class and poor neighborhoods all over Philadelphia.”

    Interesting theory with some illustrative photos: check out the whole post on

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