Panel: Racial Disparities In Swimming and Drowning Rates
(Social Equity (includes Ethnicity, Race & Gender))

Friday, November 9, 2012: 9:45 AM-11:15 AM
Adams (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Samuel L. Myers, University of Minnesota
Moderators:  Kenneth Mosely, South Carolina State University and David Thomas, Morgan State University
Chairs:  J. Law Nickens, Jr., Baltimore City Health Department

Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death among African Americans. Black youth are two to three times more likely to drown than are whites. Few blacks know how to swim well enough to join competitive swim teams, which remain among the least racially diverse sports teams in America. The public policy connection between racial disparities in drowning and racial disparities in swimming has largely escaped the attention of policy makers and policy analysts. But yet, minority pool closings during periods of austerity are at an all-time high. Funding for construction of new pools or renovation and repair of existing pools in poor, inner-city areas competes for limited parks and recreation resources. The competition for funding for inner-city pools comes at a time of high demand for basketball courts, soccer facilities, and other open space uses. This panel examines the causes and consequences of racial disparities in swimming and drowning. The historical development of racially segregated pools and the evolution of differential access to public swimming opportunities are provided in the first paper. The second paper provides documentation on the strong and statistically significant inverse relationship between black drowning rates and black competitive swimming rates over the past 20 years. The third paper examines the various myths and explanations for why blacks are less likely to report significant swimming ability and the various policy responses. The panel brings together economists, historians and health and sport scientists exploring a topic rarely examined within the APPAM community.

The Deadly Legacy of Swimming Pool Discrimination
Jeff Wiltse, University of Montana

Causes and Consequences of Racial Disparities In Swimming
Samuel L. Myers and Ana Cuesta, University of Minnesota