What is the equitable city?
When reading about 'equity' in relation to cities, it is clear that people mean different things when they use the term. We can see at least four overlapping meanings:
Firstly, ‘equity’ is used as an analytical concept. In economics, for example, the concept of ‘social equity’ is used to look at the distribution of capital, goods and access to services throughout an economy, and is measured using tools such as the Gini index.
Secondly, ‘equity’ can refer to a way of seeing and understanding certain critical issues in a more general way. An ‘equity perspective’ of transportation and environmental sustainability, for example, would signal that understanding and responding to these issues requires that we take historical differences between social groups into account.
Thirdly, in discussions of urban policy ‘equity’ is often used as a normative ideal or principle, which we can and should move towards (in the same way that other concepts such as integration, sustainability and participation are often presented as principles to inform urban policies).
Finally, ‘equity’ may refer to a certain approach to policy and city making, where social groups are treated differently according to their historical experiences of exclusion or injustice. This can be contrasted with policy approaches based on the notion of ‘equality’, where all people are treated equally despite of their individual or group differences.
With these differences in mind, it makes sense to start off the debate with some consideration of what we mean by the term ‘equity’. This will help us to develop a better idea of what it means to talk of ‘urban equity’ or ‘an equitable city’.
Please give us your thoughts on what this concept of 'equity' is and can be. The questions guiding this topic are:
What does 'equity' mean in relation to cities?
What is an 'equitable city'?
The attached document on 'Equity in development' produced by the UK-based Overseas Development Institute may provide some starting points. Do these photographs (below) raise any questions of their own?