Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 95, Issue 5, pp 739–749 | Cite as

How Do Racial/Ethnic Groups Differ in Their Use of Neighborhood Parks? Findings from the National Study of Neighborhood Parks

  • Christine A. VaughanEmail author
  • Deborah A. Cohen
  • Bing Han


The current study examined racial/ethnic differences in use of parks and park facilities and features and self-reported park use and perceptions. We conducted observations in a nationally representative sample of 193 neighborhood parks in 27 US cities over a 1-week period between April and August of 2016 using the System of Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC). To determine the propensity of different racial/ethnic groups to use parks relative to expectation based on their representation in the surrounding neighborhood, we calculated the percentages of park users of each race/ethnicity and compared these to the percentages of racial/ethnic groups residing in the neighborhood within a 1-mile radius of the park based on 2010 U.S. Census data. In the same parks, we administered an intercept survey to assess park users’ self-reported use and perceptions of the park (N = 1872). We examined racial/ethnic differences in self-reported use and perceptions of parks using GEE models that adjusted for several individual- and park-level covariates. Hispanics comprised a disproportionate percentage of observed park users. Racial/ethnic groups generally did not differ in their self-reported park use and perceptions, except for the social context of park visits. In adjusted models, Hispanics had significantly higher odds of visiting with a child family member (OR = 1.44) and lower odds of visiting alone than non-Hispanic whites (OR = .55). Findings highlight Hispanics’ greater propensity to use parks and indicate that parks may serve a communal purpose for Hispanics that they do not serve for other racial/ethnic groups.


Racial/ethnic differences Park use Neighborhood parks Park observations Park visits 



This study was supported by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to Deborah Cohen (R01HL114432). The authors express their appreciation of the data collectors who observed park use and participants in surveys.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RAND CorporationSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.RAND CorporationSanta MonicaUSA

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