Outdoor Recreation Constraints: An Examination of Race, Gender, and Rural Dwelling

How to cite this study

Johnson, C.Y., Bowker, J.M. and Cordell, H.K. 2001. Outdoor recreation constraints: An examination of race, gender, and rural dwelling. Journal of Rural Social Sciences 17(1): 6.


In this study from 2001, the authors use the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment to better understand the constraints faced by black people, women, and rural residents in the U.S. when they attempt to participate in their favorite outdoor recreation activities. They found that women are most likely to feel constrained by personal safety concerns, ineffective facilities or information, a lack of funds, and outdoor pests. Though they found that race was not a significant predictor of constraints for participants, nonparticipating black people are more likely to perceive personal safety as a barrier than nonparticipating white people. Finally, rural residence does not appear to be a main factor in determining the probability that individuals feel constrained in their favorite outdoor activity.


This study is relevant to leaders interested in improving equity in access to outdoor spaces. The results could be used to inform programs to encourage and support more diverse participation in outdoor recreation. For example, since personal safety was found to be a significant concern for women and black people, programs that increase safety and security in parks could lead to an increase in outdoor recreational participation by these groups. More generally, the most common constraints felt by those interviewed in the sample were a lack of time and money, suggesting that accessibility like location and park affordability are important aspects to examine to improve outdoor recreational participation. 

A limitation of the study is that the survey questions are broad and do not address the complexities of each constraint. Future research should attempt to further investigate these intricacies, such as understanding whether a concern regarding personal safety refers to threats from wildlife, natural hazards, or humans.


This study analyzes the results of the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, a survey conducted by the USDA Forest Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 1991-1994 in the United States.

Trail Type

The National Survey on Recreation and the Environment covers a wide range of outdoor recreational activities. Since there was a huge variety in different pursuits, the authors combined activities by creating four binary variables for the categories of favorite activities: winter sports, water sports, developed-setting activities, and dispersed-setting activities.


The purpose of this study was to assess the probability that historically marginalized groups (black people, women, and rural residents) view more constraints to participation in their favorite outdoor activity compared to other groups. All three authors were employed by the U.S Forest Service.


  • Rural residents have a lower probability of feeling constrained than non rural residents.  A rural resident is 7 percentage points less likely to feel constrained by time than a nonrural resident. 
  • Women feel more constrained by personal safety, inadequate facilities, inadequate information, and outdoor pests compared to men. Women were almost twice as likely to feel constrained by personal safety concerns compared to men. 
  • Lower-income respondents reported being more constrained by either lack of funds or transportation than higher-income respondents.
  • Younger respondents were more likely to list insufficient time, no companions, and inadequate information as constraints than older respondents.
  • Black nonparticipants in outdoor recreation were about four times as likely as white nonparticipants to perceive personal safety as an important factor preventing them from participating in their favorite outdoor recreational activity.


The authors analyzed the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE). Conducted by telephone, the NRSR interviewed 17,000 people over age 16, obtaining data on individual and household characteristics. Modules about accessibility, wildlife, land management, water quality, and constraints to their favorite outdoor recreation activities were assigned randomly to each respondent. In the constraint module, the interviewers read a list of 14 constraints and the respondent answered whether this constraint affected participation. Those who did not participate in outdoor recreation were still asked to respond to the constraint questions. Control variables included age, income, type of activities, per capita household income, age, and region. Four binary variables represented categories for participants’ favorite activities (winter sports, water sports, developed-setting activities, and dispersed-setting activities). The authors estimated logistic regression models using LIMDEP, an econometric and statistical software package.

Added to library on November 7, 2023