Assessing spatial equity: An evaluation of measures of accessibility to public playgrounds

E. Talen, L. Anselin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

552 Scopus citations


Geographical and political research on urban service delivery - who benefits and why - has proliferated during the past two decades. Overall, this literature is not characterized by a particular attention to the importance of method in drawing conclusions about spatial equity based on empirical studies. Specifically, there has been scant interest in the effect of geographic methodology on assessing the relationship between access and socioeconomic characteristics that are spatially defined. In this paper we take a spatial analytical perspective to evaluate the importance of methodology in assessing whether or not, or to what degree the distribution of urban public services is equitable. We approach this issue by means of an empirical case study of the spatial distribution of playgrounds in Tulsa, Oklahoma, relative to that of the targeted constituencies (children) and other socioeconomic indicators. In addition to the 'traditional' measure (count of facilities in an areal unit), we consider a potential measure (based on the gravity model), average travel distance, and distance to the nearest playground as indicators of accessibility. We find significant differences between the spatial patterns in these measures that are suggested by local indicators of spatial association and other techniques of exploratory spatial data analysis. The choice of access measure not only implies a particular treatment of spatial externalities but also affects conclusions about the existence of spatial mismatch and inequity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-613
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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