Economic Woman

Econometrics, gender, equity and more.

From urban studies to economics

with 2 comments

This has been all over the internet so I don’t remember where I first saw it, but I’ve been having fun playing with Walk Score. This little tool can take any address, use Google to search for services and entertainment nearby, and come up with a score from zero to 100 that roughly reflects how pedestrian-friendly the area is.

It’s surprisingly accurate – my west end Toronto neighbourhood scores very well, as does the house nearby where I grew up. My old apartment in Edinburgh’s Old Town (pictured below, with New Town in the background) is more walkable still, and Mississauga City Centre, a local suburban business district, barely breaks fifty despite a great concentration of goods and services at Square One, a huge shopping centre. (It’s a long, windswept walk between building complexes.)


Before switching to economics, I was an urban studies major, so this sort of thing interests me. But watch while I connect it to feminist economics using one of Susan Feiner‘s recent posts! She references Krugman in writing about the perils of pedestrian-unfriendly neighbourhood, and the isolating effect they can have on women who work at home.

45 years ago American feminist Betty Friedan saw how suburban isolation undermined women’s health and restricted women’s choices. […] Friedan’s analysis was pooh-poohed as a “women’s” issue. Coming soon to a station near you: $5.00/gallon gas. VOILLA!

Sprawling suburbs are a national (and therefore not gendered) problem. Feminist ways of thinking reveal new sides of way more issues than equal pay, child care, and reproductive choice. 10 minutes ago would you have realized how critically women’s lives are affected by the supply of mass transit? Until we expand, upgrade and diversify the nation’s transportation network women will be stuck in isolated homes, far from shops, schools, and workplaces.

Read the rest of the post here.


Written by Allison

7 June 2008 at 10:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Pedestrian-friendliness seems like it’s a women’s issue in more ways than just suburban isolation. In urban centres, the number of people on the streets can significantly impact a woman’s feelings of safety, particularly at night. Speaking from experience, the degree to which a woman finds her neighbourhood safe can have serious mental health implications. Shops and schools bring pedestrians (possible allies) and they also bring services–street lights, for example. No wonder rates of anxiety and depression (disorders more often experienced by women) tend to increase in areas where those services are neglected and foot traffic is rare.


    7 June 2008 at 1:16 pm

  2. Great post!
    I’d like to second what Kate said. I live on the border of two neighborhoods – if I walk in one direction, there are streetlights and crosswalks, and after walking a couple of blocks I come to schools, libraries and shops. In the other direction, I have to cross empty parking lots and dart across busy roads without crosswalks in order to arrive at any of the businesses if I go on foot. Although my husband feels comfortable walking alone in either direction, my movements are contained to the populated neighborhood – the one with well-lit sidewalks that attract more foot traffic.


    11 June 2008 at 2:23 pm

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