Income and racial disparities in access to public parks and private recreation facilities

Am J Prev Med. 2008 Jan;34(1):9-15. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2007.09.030.


Background: Disparities in health outcomes and health behaviors may be partially explained by neighborhood environments that are poor in resources that could support healthy behaviors. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that low-income and high-minority neighborhoods have less access to public parks, open space, and private recreation facilities.

Methods: From 2004 to 2005, an inventory of 351 private recreation facilities and 465 public parks was conducted in 833 Census block groups in Maryland. In 2-way ANCOVAs, numbers of private facilities and public parks, as well as maximum park size, were studied in relation to categories of median income and percent non-white population in the block groups.

Results: For the number of private recreation facilities, there was no significant effect of income or percent minority. For number and size of parks, the interaction between income and percent minority was significant. Mixed-race neighborhoods had the highest number of parks, regardless of income. Low- and middle-income groups living in mostly-white block groups and high-income groups living in mostly-minority block groups had the lowest access to public parks.

Conclusions: The expected deprivation of recreation facilities in low-income and high-minority neighborhoods was not found. There are exceptions to the inequalities found nationally, so the policies or practices associated with a fairer distribution of recreation resources in some local areas need to be better understood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Continental Population Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environment
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Public Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Recreation*
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*