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Leisure constraints relevant to racially and ethnically diverse groups

This is an excerpt from Race, Ethnicity, and Leisure by Monika Stodolska, Kimberly Shinew, Myron Floyd, and Gordon Walker.

Research on Constraints Among Racially and Ethnically Diverse Groups

Although some leisure constraints, such as time and money, seem to be applicable to the general population (Shores, Scott, & Floyd, 2007), others appear to be mediated by racial and ethnic group status. Leisure constraints that are particularly relevant to racially and ethnically diverse groups include access to resources, immigration factors, and discrimination issues (see chapters 5 and 11). Less is known about the strategies these groups use to accommodate constraints; few studies explicitly identify leisure coping and negotiation strategies used by racially or ethnically diverse groups (see, for example, Livengood & Stodolska, 2004; Stodolska, Acevedo, & Shinew, 2009). However, when possible, the following discussion includes research on constraints and the ways in which racially and ethnically diverse groups address these constraints.

Access to Resources

Although racially and ethnically diverse groups have displayed advances in income levels, educational status, and employment since the 1960s, serious disparities remain that often lead to differentiated access to resources (see chapter 3 on practice). With regard to leisure research, Shinew and Floyd (2005) acknowledged that the field has yet to “understand the complex nature and multifaceted impact of constraints associated with racial stratification” (p. 40). Limited access to resources is a commonly cited constraint among racially and ethnically diverse groups (see chapter 5 on Latino Americans). Access manifests itself through financial resources, transportation, and physical access. Hunt and Ditton (2002) examined the relationship between race and ethnicity and freshwater fishing experiences (i.e., age of first fishing experience) in the state of Texas. They concluded that White males engaged in licensed recreational fishing more often than any other race–gender–ethnic group. One possible explanation was that racially and ethnically diverse groups lacked the financial resources to participate in the activity; census findings showed that minorities had lower income levels compared to Whites in Texas. Additionally, the authors noted that racially and ethnically diverse group members tend to live in urban areas; since fishing generally occurs in nonurban areas, this can also limit their access to fishing opportunities. Dunn and colleagues (2002) found that transportation was a constraint for Hispanics trying to visit lakes in the state of Oklahoma, especially lakes in rural settings. Hispanic families also expressed lack of awareness that these resources existed. Richter and colleagues (2002) found that lack of resources restricted some African American women living in South Carolina from participating in physical activities when resources included the ability to pay the membership fees for exercise facilities and the ability to pay for transportation to the location. Similarly, Henderson and Ainsworth (2000) found that limited monetary resources, lack of transportation, and lack of community infrastructure (i.e., sidewalks) affected older African American and American Indian women’s participation in physical activities.

Scholars have noted that racial and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in low-income areas often have less access to attractive and well-maintained community infrastructure, including city parks, sidewalks, and open spaces (Floyd, Taylor, & Whitt-Glover, 2009; Stodolska & Shinew, 2010). In Stodolska and Shinew’s study on constraints that affect Latinos’ participation in recreation and physical activity, residents commented that their poorly maintained parks had “jogging trails full of potholes, dilapidated playground equipment, trash, lack of water fountains and unsanitary restrooms” (p. 321). Residents noted that lack of access to well-maintained parks affected their recreation participation. Powell, Slater, and Chaloupka’s (2004) examination of the association of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status with community-level recreation and physical activity settings (i.e., sport areas, green spaces, bike paths) showed that African Americans and individuals of “other” races were less likely to have access to community recreation resources. However, this was not necessarily the case for communities with large populations of Hispanics, which actually had higher levels of access to the recreation settings examined. Indeed, other researchers have acknowledged that not all low-income neighborhoods with highly racially and ethnically diverse populations lack quality recreation resources (Macintyre, 2007; Powell et al.). Unfortunately, in some of these neighborhoods, issues of crime and safety can limit recreation participation (Franzini et al., 2010; Stodolska, Acevedo, & Shinew, 2009; Stodolska, Shinew, Acevedo, & Roman, 2013). However, as demonstrated in Stodolska and Shinew’s study, some Latino individuals attempt to overcome the safety constraints restricting their participation. For example, one resident reported that she no longer visited parks due to safety concerns but instead used indoor recreation facilities. Similarly, another female resident reported that she transported her children to a different park that she perceived to be safer to engage in recreation and play. Of course, other families were unable to afford the fees associated with indoor facilities or lacked the transportation to go to another site.

Immigration Factors

Several factors related to immigration may also constrain leisure participation. With regard to immigrants, Stodolska (2000) stated that upon arrival to the country, individuals are faced with “initial transitional shock, imperfect language skills, separation from family and friends, need to regain economic stability, and lack of familiarity with basic institutions of the host country” (p. 65). Although some immigrant families do comparably better economically in the United States than in their homeland, some have a hard time adjusting to life in the United States. Bengston and Schermann (2008) noted several critical issues and challenges specific to outdoor recreation participation among recent immigrants, including low literacy rates, lack of knowledge regarding laws and regulations governing outdoor recreation, and having a set of norms related to outdoor recreation that can conflict with White mainstream norms and traditions.

Determining what leisure activities can be continued and developing new leisure interests can be a source of stress for new immigrants. Stodolska (2000) studied the postmigration changes that occurred in Polish immigrants in Canada and grouped the leisure participants according to Jackson and Dunn’s (1988) classification scheme of four categories: “quitters,” “replacers,” “adders,” and “continuers” (p. 43). Stodolska found that several immigrants in the study “ceased participating in at least one leisure activity” without replacing it with another leisure activity (quitters), whereas many were able to replace their old leisure activities with new ones after migrating to Canada (replacers). Some participants incorporated new leisure activities into their regular activities (adders), while many of the Polish immigrants continued their regular leisure activities (continuers). Upon arriving to Canada, some immigrants noted that certain leisure activities were not feasible as they were “no longer available,” “turned out to be too expensive,” “were perceived to be too dangerous,” or “were too time-consuming.”

Lack of language skills can also affect participation. Dunn and colleagues (2002) held two focus groups with Hispanic stakeholders to improve services at lakes in Oklahoma, and stakeholders expressed concern about language barriers. In some situations, the participants felt that the language barrier could pose a potential safety hazard during emergency situations if rangers and Hispanic visitors were not able to communicate with each other. Rublee and Shaw (1991) found that Latin American women who had immigrated to the United States took part primarily in child-related activities because the language barrier deterred them from participating in other leisure activities. Stodolska (2000) documented the “post arrival depression” Polish immigrants experienced after moving to Canada and noted that lack of English proficiency was one of the contributing factors.

Related to language, level of acculturation and assimilation (Gordon, 1964) (see chapter 1 on theoretical frameworks) can also constrain participation. Dunn and colleagues (2002) noted that immigrants often wished to participate in activities in a traditional Mexican way. The authors stated, “They will attempt to reproduce in their new environment the culturally expressive recreational behaviors they grew up with. Unacculturated Hispanics will not usually imitate the recreational behavior of the established White (Anglo) society” (p. 19). Floyd and Gramann (1995) examined the effects of acculturation and structural assimilation on Mexican Americans’ outdoor recreation patterns. They found that unacculturated Mexican Americans participated in fewer activities than did Whites and that the least assimilated Mexican Americans were less likely to visit some of the recreation areas, whereas the “highly assimilated Mexican Americans” displayed usage patterns similar to those of Whites.

Both intra- and interpersonal constraints related to immigration have been identified in the literature. Li and Stodolska (2007) examined leisure constraints and negotiation practices in international Chinese graduate students. The findings suggested that the students were limited in their leisure due to a “lack of time, language barrier and cultural differences, lack of friends, and feelings of lack of entitlement to pursue leisure” (p. 115). Li and Stodolska reported that students used a variety of approaches to address these constraints, including turning to their home culture and to friends from their home country during their leisure, expressing feelings of isolation, and contacting family and friends back home through the use of technology. Feelings of isolation and lack of leisure companions were also mentioned by respondents in Tsai and Coleman’s (1999) study of Chinese immigrants residing in Australia, who reported that since family and friends were left behind, they had fewer companions for their leisure activities. Tsai and Coleman suggested that interpersonal factors constrained their leisure since they were “in the process of establishing new friendship networks in a new socio-cultural environment” (p. 256). The specific impact of culture on constraints has also been examined. Hudson, Hinch, Walker, and Simpson (2010) concluded that culture influenced Chinese Canadians’ participation in downhill skiing. Chinese Canadians perceived more intrapersonal constraints (many related to their culture) whereas Anglo Canadians’ constraints were primarily structural. The authors also noted that people from Asia were more likely to have interdependent self-construals (e.g., sense of belonging, maintaining harmony, promoting the goals of others); thus the Chinese Canadian respondents would often participate “if only to fit in with the Canadian lifestyle. They were also constrained by parental barriers, supporting the theory that conforming to role expectations was highly valued” (p. 82).

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