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

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

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


  • Amy Hillier Department of City & Regional Planning, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania, USA
  • Bing Han RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, USA
  • Theodore S. Eisenman Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts, USA
  • Kelly R. Evenson Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, USA
  • Thomas L. McKenzie Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, USA
  • Deborah A. Cohen RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, USA


Abstract  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.


Keywords  Intergroup Contact Theory; interracial contact; parks and recreation; SOPARC; urban parks


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/up.v1i4.756


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