Access to urban green space in Mexico City is linked to the socioeconomic status of the neighborhood

Huerta, C. M. (2022). Rethinking the distribution of urban green spaces in Mexico City: Lessons from the COVID-19 outbreak. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 70.

Research supports the idea that urban green space (UGS) can positively impact the mental health and resilience of people living in cities. This proved to be particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, proximity to UGS is not equal. Lower income communities generally have less access to UGS than more advantaged communities. Closures and movement restrictions during COVID made accessing UGS even more difficult. This study examined the equity of access to UGS in Mexico City, a COVID hotspot with wealth disparities and environmental issues.

An inventory of access to UGS was conducted in the sixteen municipalities in Mexico City at the neighborhood level, with access being defined as located within 300 meters of each neighborhood. Each UGS was classified into four types – children's, district, city, and neighborhood parks. These classifications were based on the size of the parks and the functions they serve within the community. Data from the 2020 National Population and Housing Census in Mexico was then used to examine poverty level and density of each neighborhood. This data, paired with UGS accessibility and type, revealed “high priority areas” in Mexico City, where overcrowding and poverty are associated with a lack of UGS.

Of the 4,702 UGS identified, the vast majority (4,444) were children's parks. Most of the study neighborhoods (72%) were more than 300 meters from any type of UGS space. Further, a comparison of city socioeconomic and demographic data showed that lower income areas had significantly less access than higher income areas across all four UGS types. Specifically, while 12.6% of the neighborhoods lacked walkable access to UGS, only 4 to 7% of higher income areas fell into this category, compared to 50 to 73% of lower income neighborhoods. A lack of UGS access coupled with overcrowding was found in 4.7%  of the studied neighborhoods.

This study showed that lower income communities in Mexico City have significantly less UGS access than their wealthier counterparts. People living in the lower income communities are, therefore, less likely to enjoy the health and resilience benefits associated with UGS. The lack of access to UGS can be especially impactful in situations like the COVID pandemic. Knowledge of the neighborhoods in Mexico City where UGS are most needed can be a first step in addressing the gap in access. Similar studies can be used to create more resilient communities across the world.

Research Partner