Using Systematic Observations to Understand Conditions That Promote Interracial Experiences in Neighbourhood Parks

Published in: Urban Planning, 2016, Volume 1, Issue 4, Pages 51-64. doi:10.17645/up.v1i4.756

Posted on RAND.org on May 16, 2017

by Amy Hillier, Bing Han, Kelly R. Evenson, Thomas L. McKenzie, Deborah Cohen

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We analysed observations from 31 neighbourhood parks, with each park mapped into smaller target areas for study, across five US cities generated using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in the Community (SOPARC). In areas where at least two people were observed, less than one-third (31.6%) were populated with at least one white and one non-white person. Park areas that were supervised, had one or more people engaged in vigorous activity, had at least one male and one female present, and had one or more teens present were significantly more likely to involve interracial groups (p < 0.01 for each association). Observations in parks located in interracial neighbourhoods were also more likely to involve interracial groups (p < 0.05). Neighbourhood poverty rate had a significant and negative relationship with the presence of interracial groups, particularly in neighbourhoods that are predominantly non-white. Additional research is needed to confirm the impact of these interactions. Urban planning and public health practitioners should consider the health benefits of interracial contact in the design and programming of neighbourhood parks.

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