Understanding the Importance of Urban Parks and Greenery as Coping Mechanisms for Climate Change: A Study of Low-income Hispanics in Texas and California
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Research of satisfaction and happiness has demonstrated that a stable income and comfortable climates are two significant drivers of human well-being. The current research is concerned with low-income Hispanics due to the pressures caused by socio-economic barriers, which hastens their ability to cope with adverse weather conditions. A further stressor was found to arise out of the urban environment in the form of urban heat islands as well. Research in this area suggests that urban greening may be a sustainable alternative to reducing heat within cities and reducing air conditioning dependence. The purpose of this study is to investigate the perceptions and behaviors of low-income Hispanic families in hot and dry climates and to explore the significance of green-spaces and urban parks as adaptive strategies to climate change in their lives. This research aims to investigate the effect of income on the stress levels of respondents to heat and to the experience of ‘going to the park’. Also, it investigates the perceptions and level of satisfaction that respondents feel towards their park visits and explores the effect of income on resiliency to heat. An online survey was created after three focus group sessions and distributed among Hispanic residents in both California and Texas via a reputable market research company. The survey is composed of questions regarding behavior, perception, stress, and satisfaction. For data analysis, descriptive statistics, t-test, ANOVA, and multiple regression were used. There were a total of (N=761) respondents, with 54.6% from California and 45.4% from Texas. Within the population 615 respondents had used a park at the time of taking the survey on September 2014. Initial findings showed a younger population with 78% of the population below the age of 45. There was a lower level of educational achievement to coincide with the younger group, as well as a higher level of unemployment. Income brackets were split by the median level of the survey, $50,000 total annual income for a family of four, to continue the analysis across the hypotheses. Hypothesis test results showed that income was associated with the satisfaction held towards the respondents’ neighborhood and stress felt towards heat. Such research will contribute to how we understand physical and subjective pressures affecting communities by applying a bottom-up method of management. If utilized as a tool of Adaptive Collaborative Management, this research may be applied to gain useful insights from stakeholders while maintaining analytical significance for policy makers. First, it will help to uncover inconsistencies and gaps in public policies surrounding the types of park that are created, where the parks are located, the features they exhibit, and the degree to which cities are committed to urban greening. And, secondly, patterns of usage among residents may be better understood so that equal and affective access is provided for residents of cities.