An Analysis of Socio-demographics and Public Space in Austin, Texas

Wittenmyer, Anna
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Past research has shown that access to and use of public spaces is connected to quality of life, sense of community, overall public health. With this is in mind, the understanding of how the availability of public spaces varies by socio-demographic group creates and interesting conversation about environmental justice. This study addresses the question, “What are the relationships between socio-demographics and city parks in Austin?” This study uses data from the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) about parks and park services as well as socio-demographic data from the United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey on income level, percent minority, and percent women and children. These variables were evaluated at the block group level. Statistical tests (Kruskal-Wallis, Mann-Whitney, Chi-Square) were performed to identify relationships between parks data and socio-demographic data. These relationships were evaluated considering a PARD-designated service radius, which represents design service radius. and a 1-mile service radius, which represents parks within walking distance. When considering the design service radius, results showed statistically significant relationships between 1) Total Services and Income Level 2) Total Parks and Income Level 3) Total Services and Percent Women and Children and 4) Total Parks and Percent Women and Children. When considering a 1-mile service radius, results showed statistically significant relationships between 1) Services per Park and Percent Minority 2) Services per Park and Percent Women and Children and 3) Presence of basketball court, BBQ pit, playground, splash pad, volleyball court and Income Level. These results suggest socio-demographic-dependent access gaps that vary according with the service area considered. The author has worked in partnership with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department to review findings and discuss future work, which includes analyzing how future development could affect access gaps in order to prioritize development of 6 potential parks.