Poverty and the urban heat effect

Presented at the 6th International Conference on Countermeasures to Urban Heat Islands as ‘A Comparison Of Disadvantage and Urban Heat Island Effect In Melbourne, Australia’, December 2023


The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage1 scores were compared against the urban heat island effect of all 27 ‘city’ local government areas in metropolitan Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. It found a correlation (r2 value of 0.4435) between disadvantage and urban heat.

15 of the 16 variables that generated the Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage were then calculated and compared against the urban heat island effect for those same local government areas. It found correlations (r2 values of more than 0.4) between urban heat and four variables including people with low household income.

The equivalised income of each household in those local government areas as reported in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 Census was then compared against the urban heat island effect. It found a strong correlation (r2 value of 0.7405) between high incomes and low urban heat and vice versa. For example, households in the lowest bracket earning $1 to $7,799 each year live in an area with an urban heat island effect of 8.77oC compared to 8.17oC for households in the highest bracket earning $156,000 or more each year.

The implications for policymakers responsible for addressing urban heat are that data should be used to target interventions at local government areas with high levels of disadvantage and high urban heat island effect. For example, the City of Brimbank has the highest UHI effect (+10.75oC) in Melbourne and the second lowest IRSD score (921).

Heat or eat

VCOSS is the peak body for Victoria’s social and community sector, and the state’s premier social advocacy body. We work towards a Victoria free from poverty and disadvantage, where every person and community experiences genuine wellbeing. Read more.

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  1. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by%20Subject/2033.0.55.001~2016~Main%20Features~IRSD~19 ↩︎