Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Gender and Ethnic Variations in Urban Park Preferences, Visitation, and Perceived Benefits

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Gender and Ethnic Variations in Urban Park Preferences, Visitation, and Perceived Benefits

Article excerpt


Current demographic trends indicate that the growth rate of racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States is increasing faster than that for the population as a whole (Riche, 2000). In many urban areas, ethnic and racial minority populations outnumber the traditional White majority and represent a growing user segment of urban parks and open spaces. There is often a mistaken assumption that park and recreation agencies need only make future population projections and provide more of what currently exists (Goodale & Godbey, 1995). However, if park managers, recreation agencies, and leisure science researchers are to meet the needs and interests of these diverse populations, it is important to understand how the expectations and desires of men and women in such ethnic groups differ from those of traditional park users.

The United States has historically been characterized as a "melting pot" where people from other lands and cultures are assimilated into the larger society to become "Americans." Indeed, during the influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe during the early 20th century, extensive efforts were directed toward "Americanizing" the new arrivals (Gordon, 1961). Within the United States today, there is increasing acceptance of ethnic pluralism and support for personal affirmation of ethnic identity. Ethnic groups often seek to maintain somewhat separate identities, failing to integrate completely with the larger society-classic cases of what have been termed "marginal groups" (Park & Burgess, 1921). To the extent that individuals seek to maintain identity within both the cultures of mainstream American society and their separate ethnic groups, they may experience personal marginality in their relationships with both groups (Mohl & Betten, 1972; Stonequist, 1937). Separate role behaviors within these two differing (and sometimes conflicting) settings can validate one's membership in both groups and lessen psychological stress. Thus, in most economic or work roles, pressures to be "American" and to de-emphasize expressions of ethnicity may be paramount, while in recreational and leisure-time pursuits involving family and friendship roles, individuals may seek to affirm their ethnic ties by engaging in traditional ethnic activities (Stodolska & Jackson, 1998; Yinger, 1981).

Theoretical Background

While much of the literature on retention of ethnic identity has been related to the Hansen hypothesis that a second generation of immigrants rebel or remove themselves from their ethnic group while a third returns to it, subsequent research is mixed in its support (Hansen, 1962; Hansen & Schlesinger, 1964; Kivisto & Blanck, 1990). Patterns of assimilation vary by ethnic group, within various areas of assimilation, such as language, identity, food, working patterns, and friendship patterns, and such variation is considerable (Alba & Nee, 1997; Isajiw, 1990). Moreover, there may also be differences within ethnic groups that are associated with the personal characteristics of the individuals involved, including age, race, and social class. While some intra-ethnic differences have been explored, immigration studies have generally ignored the role of gender. However, "like class and race, gender represents a major dimension of social structure and a focus on this dimension can yield novel insights into many phenomena" (Portes, 1997, p. 816).

Such gender-related research on the immigration process should not deal only with females: "the challenge still remains to branch out from a concentration on female immigrants in order to apply appropriately gender-inflected research questions and methods to both men and women" (Pessar, 1996, p. 32). Since previous research on ethnicity characterizes the process of adjustment and assimilation as complex, varying by ethnic group, with complex intergenerational changes, there is reason to suspect that the role played by gender in immigration process will also show variation. …

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