The Challenge: Parks and recreation facilities have been shown to improve children’s health and reduce obesity rates, but cities with high poverty rates or a high percentage of Latino and Black residents spend less on parks and recreation facilities.
Make an impact: State and local governments, as well as voluntary organizations, have the opportunity to redress local funding disparities for parks and recreational programs to improve active living in communities of color and low-income communities.
What the findings are about: This policy brief highlights findings from a study of the Los Angeles region which shows that the poorest, most-densely populated cities allocate the lowest levels of parks and recreation funding.
Key Findings and Recommendations:
The majority of parks and recreation spending originates at the local level, and cities with limited financial capacity are less able to dedicate resources than cities that are more affluent.
Low-income areas with the greatest need for public parks and recreation programs are less likely to create and sustain programs compared to high-income cities.
Cities with higher proportions of Latinos and African Americans have the lowest per capita spending on parks and recreation.
Strategies to decrease funding disparities include pursuing policies that increase parks, recreation facilities and programs in inner-city areas with underserved populations; establishing statewide standards for parks and recreational programming with higher-level governmental support for cities that fall below minimum standards; amending grant application policies that require matching funds from fiscally-challenged cities with mostly low-income populations; and encouraging non-profit organizations to direct their resources toward low-income, densely-populated cities where residents have little or no private outdoor space and, therefore, the greatest need for public parks and recreation services.
University of California, Berkeley. Funding Disparities for Local Parks and Recreation Resources in the Los Angeles Region Policy Brief. July 2011. University of California Regents.