Social integration as a determinant of inequalities in green space usage: insights from a theoretical agent-based model

Abstract

Visiting urban green spaces (UGS) benefits physical and mental health. However, socio-economic and geographical inequalities in visits persist and their causes are under-explored. Perceptions of, and attitudes to, other UGS users have been theorised as a determinant of visiting. In the absence of data on these factors, we created a spatial agent-based model (ABM) of four cities in Scotland to investigate intra- and inter-city inequalities in UGS visiting. The ABM focused on the plausibility of a ‘social integration hypothesis' whereby the primary factor in decisions to visit UGS is an assessment of who else is likely to be using the space. The model identified the conditions under which this mechanism was sufficient to reproduce the observed inequalities. The addition of environmental factors, such as neighbourhood walkability and green space quality, increased the ability of the model to reproduce observed phenomena. The model identified the potential for unanticipated adverse effects on both overall visit numbers and inequalities of interventions targeting those in lower socio-economic groups

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