Background: Differences in availability of recreational resources may contribute to racial and socioeconomic status (SES) disparities in physical activity. Variations in the location and density of recreational resources were examined by SES and racial composition of neighborhoods.
Methods: Densities of resources available in recreational facilities and parks were estimated for census tracts between April 2003 and June 2004 in North Carolina, New York, and Maryland using kernel estimation. The probability of not having a facility or park was modeled by tract racial composition and SES, adjusting for population and area, using binomial regression in 2006. Mean densities of tract resources were modeled by SES and racial composition using linear regression.
Results: Minority neighborhoods were significantly more likely than white neighborhoods not to have recreational facilities (relative probability [RP]=3.27 [95% CI=2.11-5.07] and 8.60 [95% CI=4.48-16.51], for black and Hispanic neighborhoods, respectively). Low-income neighborhoods were 4.5 times more likely to not have facilities than high-income areas (95% CI=2.87-7.12). Parks were more equitably distributed. Most resources located in recreational facilities required a fee and were less dense in minority and low-income areas. Those located inside parks were usually free to use, sports-related, and denser in poor and minority neighborhoods.
Conclusions: Recreational facilities and the resources they offer are not equitably distributed. The presence of parks in poor and minority areas suggest that improving the types and quality of resources in parks could be an important strategy to increase physical activity and reduce racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities.