Research Update: Recreation across Ethnicity: People of Different Races Often Seek Contrasting Recreation Opportunities

By Bell, Christina M.; Hurd, Amy R. | Parks & Recreation, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Research Update: Recreation across Ethnicity: People of Different Races Often Seek Contrasting Recreation Opportunities


Bell, Christina M., Hurd, Amy R., Parks & Recreation


By the year 2020, the population of the United States is projected to increase from 284 million to 325 million. Along with the increase is a restructuring of race proportions. The Caucasian population is expected to decrease from 76 percent to 50 percent, while the African-American population will increase from 12 percent to 15 percent, and Hispanics will rise from nine percent of the population to 21 percent (Cordell, Betz & Green, 2002).

In anticipation of this change, leisure professionals will need to consider demographic-driven programming factors when deciding what leisure activities to provide in their communities. In order to address these changing demographics, leisure service providers should have an understanding of past research dealing with minority group leisure participation and the constraints to participation by these groups.

From this, several strategies for future program implementation can be developed. Although there are several perspectives on how to delineate minority groups, this article will focus on the two largest minority groups-African Americans and Hispanics. Greater emphasis can be placed on African Americans simply because more research has been done in this area.

Despite its importance, many leisure researchers have ignored race as a factor when examining leisure behavior (Philipp, 2000). However, just like other aspects of people's lives, ethnicity has a significant impact on leisure including activity choices, frequency, location, types of activities, and how an individual participates.

Thus, it is now even more important for leisure professionals to provide diverse programming that will get all members of the community involved (Patterson, 2003). In order to do this, it is important to have an understanding of preferred activities and perceptions of park spaces by the groups of interest.

Several studies have examined the differences in leisure activities and patterns among racial groups. Philipp (1998) argued that the leisure preferences of adults are strongly influenced by leisure experiences they had in the youth and adolescent years. Yet race is an under-represented variable in the majority of adolescent leisure research. Because of this, he studied high school students and the impact of race and gender on adolescent peer group approval of activities.

Results from his research indicated that African Americans felt their peer group was more likely to approve of them playing basketball, going to the mall, singing in a choir and dancing, while Caucasian adolescents felt their peer groups would approve of playing soccer, horseback riding, water skiing, camping, fishing and golf. Both groups had similar ratings for watching television, bowling and reading.

Cordell, Betz, and Green (2002) examined outdoor recreation behaviors and attitudes based on socio-demographic variables. They identified the 10 most popular activities including hiking, motor boating and outdoor team sports among individuals. The results from this study showed that walking was popular among all races and Caucasians favored motor boating, Hispanics favored hiking and African Americans favored outdoor team sports.

Payne, Mowen, & Orsega-Smith (2002) looked at uses of and the need for urban park land. They found that African Americans preferred open spaces that serve a recreation function, such as sporting-related facilities (e.g., baseball fields and paved trails). On the other hand, Caucasians tended to view park space for land and wildlife conservation and preferred more nature-based activities. Floyd and Shinew (1999) studied interracial contact and leisure preferences. They found that Caucasians preferred to participate in activities such as gardening, hiking, swimming and camping, while African Americans preferred activities such as shopping and church functions.

There was no significant difference between the two groups in terms of sports, listening to music and having picnics. …

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