Chart of the Day: Walkable Urbanism vs Social Equity

Here’s a chart from a recent Citylab article called “In the U.S., Walkability is a Premium Good“, using a new analysis of the amount of “walkable urbanism”  in different US cities. (Or, as I think of it, the “sidewalk factor.”)

The article goes over a number of different variables correlated with walkability, including GDP, but the chart at the end is the most interesting to me. Here you get walkable urbanism vs a social equity measure, and Minneapolis/Saint Paul is at an interesting spot on the chart:

Twin Cities marked by the green arrow.

Twin Cities marked by the green arrow.

The Twin Cities region does pretty well according to the measure here, punching about its walkable weight. Here’s what Richard Florida says about the chart [emphasis mine]:

More interestingly, walkable metros have higher levels of social equity, according to the report. This stands in some contrast to other studies, which have found superstar cities like New York and knowledge hubs like San Francisco, Boston, and D.C. to have high levels of gentrification, housing unaffordability, and inequality. Here, the report measures social equity based on housing costs, transportation costs, and the number of jobs near a given residence, which reflects compact development more than socio-economic inequality.

The chart below shows the relationship between walkable metros and this measure of social equity. The correlation here is the highest of any of the relationships studied (.60). Even with their high housing costs, walkable metros can offer better lives for their residents, as their proximity to employment, density, and transit systems reduce transportation costs in ways that offset their steeper housing prices.

The correlation might be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy as the “social equity” measures used in this analysis are based on “housing costs, transportation costs, and the number of jobs” nearby.  (It’s also a broad-brush analysis that doesn’t account for our famous racial gaps.)

But at the very least it points to the connection between urban design and access to jobs, housing, and transportation for people. Imagine how we’d rank on this chart if we boosted our walkable urbanism factor even higher.

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.