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Assessing access to urban parks from house-level data in urban China: through a social equity lens
By Siqi Yu Siqi Yu Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 1, * , Xigang Zhu Xigang Zhu Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 1 and Qian He Qian He Scilit Preprints.org Google Scholar 2
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Received: 24 February 2020 / Revised: 28 March 2020 / Accepted: 29 March 2020 / Published: 31 March 2020
Nowadays, more and more attention is paid to the various benefits of urban greenery. As a result, the distribution of green spaces has become the subject of intense spatial equity concern among local authorities and planning researchers. This study provides the first quantitative assessment of urban park accessibility using house-level data in urban China from a social equity perspective. We chose Nanjing as an empirical case and examined 2,709 properties and 79 parks in the city. Accessibility is measured by the 10-minute walking distance from homes to neighboring city parks. Using a street network analysis model in ArcGIS and statistical methods in SPSS, the result shows that 60.5% of properties in Nanjing are within a 10-minute walk from city parks. However, this affordability is positively correlated with housing prices and negatively correlated with building age, other factors remaining constant. While wealthy homeowners benefit from high-quality green space, low-income newly built communities, whose residents are classified as a vulnerable population, have the lowest percentage of available green space. This study reveals existing spatial differences in the availability of urban parks among different socioeconomic groups in Nanjing, China. Moreover, we find that urban redevelopment projects that include greening and the construction of large affordable housing reduce prices for poor urban residents and rural immigrants from city centers to urban peripheries. This will reduce the availability of urban parks and other public services among lower-income families and deepen inequalities between the rich and poor in their quality of life. The main findings of this study can help inform policy decisions regarding the provision of equitable parks during the construction of green cities and the sustainable development of urban cities in China and other developing countries.
Green spaces, including all types of plant cover, such as parks, urban forests, gardens, greenery and tree cover, are not only a key environmental factor, but also provide various health, economic, social and environmental benefits, mitigating some of the negative the effects of urbanization [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. For example, green space can improve air quality  and reduce the risk of flooding, the heat island effect and greenhouse gas emissions ; provides habitats that support biodiversity  and encourages residents to engage in outdoor sports , reducing the risk of air pollution-related diseases ; high-quality green space strengthens the identity of the area, making it a more attractive place to work and live, thereby increasing the local economic potential and land utility .
Sugar House Park
The increasing attention to the benefits of green space raises the question of sustainable urban development: with the support of public funds, are urban parks always evenly distributed across cities? To solve this problem, a considerable number of studies have been conducted on the distribution of the urban park among different social groups according to income, age, gender, racial characteristics, political power and other axes [7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 , 14, 15]. In this regard, compared to whites and the wealthy, racial minorities and low-income groups are less likely to receive urban parks or recreational projects in their communities [7, 8, 9]. However, some studies show that public facilities, such as city parks, are evenly distributed and attract disadvantaged groups [10, 11, 12, 13]. One possible explanation for these different results could be the inconsistency of the assessment metrics. Local differences in accessibility measures, such as proximity to parks, park acres, and park quality, may affect the outcome of calculations , and the priority of these metrics varies among socioeconomic groups . In addition, traditional aggregate data and units of analysis such as postcodes may be inadequate in assessing social equity, particularly for services with a high local impact such as parks, gardens and playgrounds. Therefore, Hueco suggested that lower resolution data, such as house level, should be integrated to better indicate the spatial distribution of individuals [ 16 ].
In the context of Chinese cities, social inequality has become one of the most frequently analyzed issues, although the availability of public facilities and spatial equality are new concepts. In fact, research suggests that China has transformed from relative egalitarianism to a society characterized by a widening income gap since the reform of the socialist market economy . Persistent socioeconomic inequality has also led to residential segregation, with rising housing values and poorer housing affordability . After the housing reform of 1998, which was characterized by privatization and marketization, a large and frequent replacement of the residential population took place as part of the filtering mechanism of housing prices. Residents with similar consumption abilities and characteristics of strata can gather in specific urban spaces, creating homogeneous neighborhoods, while further different socioeconomic groups are isolated from each other [19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25]. As a result, increasing spatial segregation between rich and poor intuitively raises concerns about whether public resources such as urban parks are equally accessible to people of different socioeconomic statuses. To date, there is little empirical evidence to assess the accessibility of urban parks from the perspective of spatial equity, although environmental justice is closely related to China’s sustainable development policy goals [ 15 ]. Among the existing studies, most of them are limited by aggregate data at a relatively coarse scale, such as the “Jedao” (sub-district) level, and do not deal with micro-scale issues between different social groups [13, 26, 27]. Moreover, their data on residents’ socioeconomic characteristics come from the National Census of China. However, the last national census was conducted in 2010, which will make it difficult to reflect the current socio-spatial structure of cities [13, 27].
This paper provides the first quantitative assessment of the availability of urban public parks among multiple socioeconomic groups in the context of residential segregation in urban China. We chose Nanjing as an empirical case and evaluated the accessibility of urban parks using a 10-minute walk from home as a threshold. Using the street network analysis model in ArcGIS and the SPSS statistical analysis method, taking housing attributes as indicators of socioeconomic characteristics, our study then illustrated the spatial distribution of different urban groups and parks from the perspective of social equity. The results of this study provide important implications for decision-making at the municipal level regarding the improvement of the built environment and the distribution of urban services and amenities. It can also inform policy decisions to promote social justice and sustainable development in China, especially in the current era of ecological civilization.
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The article is structured as follows: The second part is the existing literature on the assessment of social equity in access to green spaces. We further analyze the main debates on the issue of social inequality in urban China to develop our theoretical framework. The third section explains the methodology used in this study and the data sources. The fourth section presents the analysis and results, and the final section summarizes the main findings that can inform policy decisions for equitable parking provision.
With increasing attention to practical policy-making, the issue of equal access to public services and facilities has become of great importance to both planning scholars and
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