A complex landscape of inequity in access to urban parks: A literature review

Alessandro Rigolon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article reviews the growing environmental justice literature documenting access to urban parks across socioeconomic and ethnic groups. The extensive public health and sustainability benefits of parks, combined with the long history of discrimination against people of color in the United States and elsewhere, motivate an update of the literature on access to parks. Although a few reviews showed evidence of inequity in park provision, no previous review fully conceptualized and analyzed different components of access to parks. To address this gap, I conducted an analytical literature review focusing on three groups of parameters: park proximity, park acreage, and park quality. Based on a sample of 49 empirical studies mostly focusing on cities in developed countries, my review shows fairly inconclusive findings for park proximity, but striking inequities for park acreage and park quality. Low socioeconomic and ethnic minority people have access to fewer acres of parks, fewer acres of parks per person, and to parks with lower quality, maintenance, and safety than more privileged people. These demographic inequities often reflect geographical divides between inner-cities and suburbs. These findings are particularly concerning for public health because large, high-quality, well-maintained, and safe parks can better foster physical activity and its associated benefits than small parks with few amenities. Also, identifying inequities in access to parks based on proximity, acreage or quality can help develop targeted landscape planning strategies to address specific inequities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-169
Number of pages10
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Environmental justice
  • Equity mapping
  • Ethnicity/Race
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Spatial accessibility
  • Urban parks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies


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