Disparities in built and natural features of urban parks: comparisons by neighborhood level race/ethnicity and income

J Urban Health. 2014 Oct;91(5):894-907. doi: 10.1007/s11524-014-9893-4.


Known associations between the built environment and health outcomes have accelerated research examining racial/ethnic and income disparities in access to parks and other community features that support physical activity. Currently, it cannot be concluded that park characteristics are equal in quantity or condition across areas of disparate race/ethnicity and income composition. This study examined natural and built park characteristics across areas of different race/ethnicity and income composition to identify potential disparities. Twenty-one parks in Greensboro, NC (USA), located in minority or non-minority areas and in low or medium-high income areas were inventoried using a park audit tool and GIS. Parks were compared on number of activity areas, features, amenities, size, percent tree canopy, cleanliness, and condition. Independent sample t tests and Mann-Whitney tests were used to compare means of outcome variables. Fisher's exact tests were applied for categorical variables. Fewer wooded areas and more trash cans were found in low-income and minority areas as compared to medium-high income and non-minority areas. Low-income areas were found to have more picnic areas than their counterparts. Sitting and resting features in non-minority areas were found to be cleaner than those in minority areas. Results showed some evidence of disparities in park characteristics. Findings can inform park policy and design as well as renovations and maintenance procedures, particularly in specific areas where existing disparities were identified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data*
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • North Carolina
  • Observer Variation
  • Public Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Recreation*
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors