Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Health Promotion, Education and Behavior

First Advisor

Andrew T. Kaczynski


Neighborhood greenspace is important for health and well-being but may not be equitably present in neighborhoods across the United States. Also, many adults are physically inactive, have obesity, and report poor health-related quality of life. Greenspace has been tied to these health conditions, but with mixed findings. The purpose of this study was to 1) use an environmental justice perspective to examine variations in 11 measures of greenspace by neighborhood race/ethnicity, income, and rurality in block groups across the contiguous United States and 2) examine 11 greenspace measures in connection to physical activity, obesity, and health-related quality of life in counties across the contiguous United States. Greenspace data from the National Land Cover database and Esri Parks were used to calculate the 11 measures of greenspace indicating the percent of a block group or county covered by five land cover, one tree canopy, and five park greenspace measures.

In United States block groups, global and local spatial autocorrelation was present for all 11 greenspace measures. Positive and significant Moran’s I values indicated clustering. Spatial error models showed that the proportion of non-Hispanic White residents and median household income were positively and significantly associated with nine and seven of the 11 greenspace measures, respectively. Small-town rural block groups had more greenspace for nine of the 11 measures but had less local park coverage.

In United States counties, percent total land cover greenspace and percent tree canopy were associated with worse outcomes for all five health measures. Percent forest was associated with worse health-related quality of life, percent herbaceous with worse physical activity, and percent wetlands with worse obesity. Percent total parks, local parks, and national parks had a beneficial association with physical activity, obesity, and health-related quality of life. Local parks had the largest beneficial association with these health indicators.

Greenspace was not equitably present in block groups across the contiguous United States, and only parks were identified has have a beneficial relationship with health and well-being. Local government officials, city planners, and public health practitioners should consider their communities’ unique demographic characteristics and greenspace needs to ensure equitable and beneficial neighborhood greenspace.


© 2022, Ellen W. Stowe