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Compact Development and Gender Inequality: Do More Accessible and Walkable Built Environments Promote Gender Equality in Travel and Activity Space Behaviors?

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Researchers have been concerned that suburban sprawl could reinforce gendered mobility patterns and lead to gendered differences in mobility. Previous studies also argued that the effectiveness of land use policy could be influenced by men and women’s different mobility patterns in response to built environments. To address these concerns, this dissertation uses the 2010-2012 California Household Travel Survey data and directly compares the within-household gendered travel and spatial behaviors for households with paired heads living in Southern California. The study examines whether built environments, including destination accessibility, design and walkability have different impacts on male and female heads’ daily travel and activity space behaviors and whether potential urban design can help improve gendered inequality in daily mobility.

Based on negative binomial, Tobit, and feasible generalized least squares regressions, the results show that that male and female heads respond to built environments with different travel and spatial behaviors. Living in walkable and accessible areas is likely to encourage male heads to walk, reduce their dependence on driving, locate activity center close to home, and have spatially concentrated activities. Female heads tend to respond to walkable and accessible living environments with reducing automobile travel and with centering and confining their activities near residential neighborhoods.

The negative binomial, Tobit, and binary logit regression analyses that investigate the influences of built environments on gendered inequality indicate that high walkability and regional accessibility are likely to reduce the gendered inequality in motorized travel distance and relax female heads’ spatial (and temporal) constraints relative to their husbands.

This dissertation contributes to the policy debates by informing planners and feminist geographers that the effects of built environments can be heterogeneous even for men and women from similar backgrounds and compact design can be the key to gendered equity. Given that compact developments are being rapidly implemented in Southern California, this dissertation study is expected to help shape effective and efficient land use policies in the future.

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