Built Environment

Built Environment

Data highlight

Oklahoma ranks 48 (of 50) in access to basic neighborhood amenities like parks and libraries. Colorado and Illinois are tied for first, with 53.4% of the state’s children benefiting from access. Mississippi ranks lowest with only 12.9% of youth living in a neighborhood with amenities.


Percent of children ages 0-17 with access to a park or playground; recreation center, community center or boys’ and girls’ club; library or bookmobile; and sidewalks or walking paths.

0 %
0 %



Built environment refers to the human-made surroundings where people live, work, and play – think buildings, roads, parks, and other physical features. 

Why we care:

Place matters. Overall health is closely tied to the quality of someone’s built environment. 

In large part because women experience more health disparities, studies have shown that they have “more to gain” than men from living in neighborhoods with amenities.

Places for people to gather like libraries, playgrounds, and community centers make it easier and safer for families to socialize and build strong, supportive relationships. Neighborhood amenities also help people recover from the stress of day-to-day challenges, an especially important resource for groups who are more likely to experience discrimination and its psychological toll (see Frequent Mental Distress, Depression and Anxiety, and Postpartum Depression).

Studies have shown that in urban areas, paved sidewalks and nearby parks increase the surrounding population’s physical activity. People of all ages and especially children and adolescents that live near parks are less prone to being overweight, though the effects are smaller for girls/women than boys/men. 

Low-income neighborhoods often lack essential resources, including quality schools and healthcare, leading to limited opportunities for employment and fair wages. The built environment of these areas, such as inadequate housing and infrastructure, contribute to heightened stress levels, particularly among children, who face an increased risk of trauma & adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and have limited exposure to positive experiences available in more privileged neighborhoods.

The benefits of accessible and safe community spaces during pregnancy are well-documented. For pregnant women, respiratory and mental health problems increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight (see Low Birthweight). Prenatal exposure to air pollutants is also linked to stillbirth and congenital anomalies. Access to parks and other open land with natural vegetation and water features has been associated with increased birth weight and a lower likelihood of preterm birth (see Preterm Births).

Conversely, poor-quality built environments – think vacant lots, deteriorating neighborhoods, close proximity to highways or power plants, and high traffic and noise pollution – are associated with respiratory diseases, learning and behavioral issues, stress, anxiety, and depression.

What we can do:

This issue brief was written by Metriarch staff as part of our Data Lookbook.

Suggested citation
 Metriarch. “Social Dynamics,” Data Lookbook (2024). URL: metriarchok.org/built-environment.

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