Access to Green Space Across Race in Boston


Jillian Howell ‘12
Environmental Studies Program
Colby College, Waterville, ME

 

Abstract

 

The purpose of this project was to use GIS and statistical analyses to explore the relationship between access to green space and race in Boston.  Using census data, the city was divided by race and block groups.  Block groups were categorized based on whether or not they were adjacent to green space.  Findings concluded that races are not equally distributed across adjacent and non adjacent block groups, indicating unequal access to green space.

 

Introduction

 

Boston is a bustling urban center with designated areas of green space that provide residents with a place of refuge from pollution, crowds, and traffic.  Environmental justice recognizes that the availability of and access to green space, a public good, is compromised by structural disadvantages associated with race (Taylor et. Al, 55).  At the center of the rise of the environmental justice movement in the 1980s was a growing recognition and awareness of unevenness in the distribution of environmental costs across people of color and low-income. In recent years, though, emerging efforts in the environmental justice field have focused on environmental benefits and amenities, including urban design, public health, and access to outdoor recreation (Floyd and Johnson 59).This study explored the association between race and access to green space in Boston’s urban environment.

 

Methods

 

Data was retrieved from the 2000 U.S. Census and the Massachusetts Office of GIS.  Conservation, recreation land, and parkways were taken from the open space data layer and classified as green space.  Census block group data, the smallest subdivision of the census, was used to divide the city, and the three largest racial groups (white, black, and hispanic) were displayed according to block groups.  Using ArcGIS, census block groups were categorized based on whether they were adjacent to or not adjacent to green space.  A Mann Whitney U test was conducted in order to determine whether there was a significant difference in the distribution of each race in adjacent block groups vs. non-adjacent block groups.

 

 Results

 

Results of the Mann-Whitney U Test:

·Failure to reject null hypothesis that stated: the distribution of whites was the same across block groups adjacent to and non-adjacent to green space.

P-value was found to be .517, which was greater than the significance level of .05.

·Failure to reject null hypothesis that stated: the distribution of hispanics was the same across block groups adjacent to and non-adjacent to green space.      

P- value was found to be .062, which was greater than the significance level of .05.

·Rejection of null hypothesis that stated: the distribution of blacks was the same across block groups adjacent to and non-adjacent to green space.

P-value of .032 was less that the significance level of .05.

Maps display the distribution of white, black, and hispanic populations in relation to green space.  Tables display figures based on the maps.

 

 

Table 1.  Block groups with greater than 75% of one racial group and the block group’s location in relation to green space.

# Block Groups Adjacent to Green Space

# Block Groups Non-Adjacent to Green Space

% Block Groups Adjacent to Green Space

% Block Groups Non-Adjacent to Green Space

>75% White

48

109

13

44

>75% Black

34

29

9

12

>75% Hisp

3

1

1

1

 

Table 2.  Total population broken down by race, and numbers located in adjacent vs. non adjacent block groups.

Total Pop

# of People in Non-Adjacent Block Groups

# of People in Adjacent Block Groups

% Total Pop. of City   

% Living in Adjacent Block Group

% Living in Non-Adjacent Block Group

White

291,561

192,430

99,131

50

34

66

Black

140,305

120,662

19,643

24

14

86

Hisp

85,089

78,282

6,807

8

8

92

Total

589,141

229,765

359,376

100

61

39

 

 

Picture1.jpg

Figure 1.  Percentage of whites in each census block group in relation to green space.

 

 

Picture2.jpg

Figure 2.  Percentage of blacks in each census block group in relation to green space

 

 

Picture3.jpg

Figure 3.  Percentage of hispanics in each census block group in relation to green space.

 

 

Picture4.jpg

Figure 4.  Census block groups with greater than 75% of one racial group, and whether or not those block groups are adjacent to green space.

 

 

 

Discussion

 

These findings are consistent with the original hypothesis  that there was an association between access to urban green space in the city of Boston and race.  A significant difference in the percentage of blacks across adjacent versus non- adjacent block groups points to an association.  This significant difference concludes that there is a greater percentage of blacks in the non-adjacent block groups, which were the block groups with less access to green space.

Difficulties with this research included defining access.  While previous studies, including one conducted in Los Angeles, used buffers around parks to determine access and proximity, the small area of Boston made the use of buffers ineffective.   Problems encountered created by using adjacency and non-adjacency as measures of access was the failure to take into take into account quality and size of green space.  Other difficulties were accurately calculating adjacency when there were errors in digitization of the green space,

 

Acknowledgements

 

This project was created for ES212: Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing at Colby College.  Thanks to Professor Philip Nyhus Manny Gimond for their assistance and guidance on this project.

 

Conclusion

 

Access to green space  was not evenly distributed across race.  There was a significant difference between the distribution of blacks across adjacent and non adjacent block groups. Further research into quality and size of green space areas would contribute to this analysis.

 

References

 

1. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/tiger/tgrshp2010/availability.html

2. http://www.cityofboston.gov/Images_Documents/City_Links_Profile_tcm3-13196.pdf

3.  http://www.cityprojectca.org/

4.  Floyd, Myron F., and Cassandra Y. Johnson. "Coming to Terms with Environmental Justice in Outdoor

Recreation: A Conceptual Discussion with Research Implications." Leisure Sciences 24.1 (2002):

59-77. Environment Complete. EBSCO. Web. 26 Apr. 2011.

5.  Taylor, Wendell C.,  Walker S. Carlos Poston, Lovell Jones, and M. Katherine Kraft. “Environmental

Justice: Obesity,Physical Activity, and Healthy Eating.” Journal of Physical Activity and Health

2006: 30-54.

 

 

 

Massachusetts Office of GIS, ESRI

NAD_1983_StatePlane_Massachusetts_Mainland_FIPS_2001

Projection: Lambert_Conformal_Conic

 

GCS_North_American_1983

Datum: D_North_American_1983