Journal of Comparative Urban Law and Policy


Urban planners focus on the spatial arrangements of residences, businesses, institutions, infrastructure and human-built amenities, and the market- and government-driven processes that shape these arrangements. They start with the basic supposition that these arrangements strongly affect individuals’ health, prosperity, and happiness as well as the overall level of opportunity, solidarity, and satisfaction in society. Their recommendations about changing the built environment should be guided by the norms of efficiency and equity, with the latter being framed as creating disproportionate benefits to those who are least advantaged.

This essay begins with an overview of the metropolitan opportunity structure theory to frame how we are influenced by cities and what justice requires if we are to create an equal opportunity society. It then outlines the potential effects of imminent changes in technology, climate, and health on furthering spatial inequalities. Finally, it advances a bold agenda for thwarting these undesirable consequences.

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