Research Shows '15-Minute City' Not Enough to Guarantee Equity

A study of Chicago neighborhoods showed that access to urban amenities does not necessarily correlate with improved economic outcomes.

September 14, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


The '15-minute city' has become a popular buzzword for mayors around the world, but new research shows that close proximity to urban amenities does not necessarily correlate with lower poverty rates or more equitable outcomes. 

As John Greenfield writes, Doug Bright used a series of maps created by Jeremy Glover that "looked at access to eight different types of destinations: grocery stores, parks, libraries, elementary schools, high schools, hospitals or urgent care centers, pharmacies, and ‘L’ stations" in Chicago to assess the relationship between 15-minute neighborhoods and equity.

[W]hite residents, who are more likely than other groups to live in dense neighborhoods, such as downtown and in the North Lakefront neighborhoods, are overrepresented in the areas that have high levels of access to essential resources. But counterintuitively, [Bright] also determined that 'The highest poverty rate (22%, compared to an 18% city average) is also found at the highest level of access.'

In conclusion, "[a]ny strategies for planning imported (especially in a top-down manner) from other cities, countries, or continents should be regarded with healthy skepticism, as one-size-fits-all approaches are bound to ignore important nuances and autonomy of a place."

The full paper is available here.

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