A Place-Based Study of Race, Economic Status, Health, and Recreation Spaces in Orange County, California

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Purpose. Recreation spaces have long been valued as essential to society because of their mental, physical, and social benefits. The question then becomes, is equitable access to recreation spaces across communities? The specific problem examined in this study was whether the geographical distribution of recreation spaces in Orange County affects the health equity of the cities within the county boundaries. Orange County was a significant area to study because it is home to 34 incorporated cities, 3.1 million people, over 857 outdoor recreation spaces, over 75,784 acres of outdoor recreation spaces, and 122 indoor recreation spaces. Theoretical Framework. The study used place-based theory that states geographical locations have a relationship with environmental variables. The researcher used a place-based theory to analyze the geographical locations of recreation spaces and their relationship with race and economic status of Orange County, California cities. The study compared the equity of recreation spaces with the racial and economic status in cities of Orange County. To inspect the possible implications of a community, the researcher created a dasymetric equity map of Orange County. The index used scores based on residents’ ages, the city's walkability, data on indoor recreation spaces, and data on outdoor recreation spaces. Findings. Ultimately, the study found that there are disparities in geographical locations of recreation spaces concerning race and socioeconomic status. The wealthier a community, the more outdoor recreation spaces and the larger the area occupied. The whiter a community, the more outdoor recreation spaces and the larger the area occupied. The number of indoor recreation spaces showed a significantly weaker relationship with race and socioeconomic status. Conclusions and Recommendations. Cities located in North Orange County and inland were predominately those that scored in most need of recreation spaces. The four cities with the best distribution of recreation spaces were all located on the coastline: Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Public Administration
Public Administration, Public Health