Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Planning, Design, and the Built Environment

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dina Battisto

Committee Member

Matthew Browning

Committee Member

Patrick Gerard

Committee Member

Lu Shi


Research shows the health benefits of green spaces are universal, but there's a noticeable disparity in their distribution in the U.S., especially between urban and rural areas. Marginalized groups, particularly those of lower economic status or racial minorities, often have limited access to these spaces. This inequity could be more impactful on the elderly, who are more vulnerable to health issues. However, specific health benefits of green spaces for seniors are not well defined. This study examines the correlation between park access, mortality in those over 65, and income disparities across all U.S. counties.

The study employed a quantitative approach at the county level, using secondary data to explore relationships between Socioeconomic Status (SES), park access, and mortality rates. It also focused on how income disparity influences these relationships, using the Index of Concentration at the Extremes (ICE) to measure income inequality among the elderly.

Findings revealed that elderly non-Whites have better access to parks than Whites. Park access was linked to lower mortality from emphysema and atherosclerosis but higher asthma rates in urban areas. Income inequality didn't significantly affect park access but did moderate the relationship between park access and mortality from emphysema, atherosclerosis, and heart failure.

The study noted higher park access among African American and Hispanic or Latino seniors, suggesting they may live with younger relatives in areas with better park access. It also highlighted that proximity to green spaces might not offset the health risks of unhealthy lifestyles. The study calls for more research to develop a refined SES metric for the elderly.

Author ORCID Identifier


Available for download on Tuesday, December 31, 2024