Recommended Reading for Advancing Equity in the Planning Profession

Are you looking to make your planning practice more equity-focused? The following curated book list from APA's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee offers titles that explore various ways equity (or lack thereof) impacts planning. Books are listed alphabetically by title.

Diverse Planning Topics Analyzed Critically

Edited by: Norman Krumholz and Kathryn Wertheim Hexter

Advancing Equity Planning Now cover

Planning experts from a broad spectrum of backgrounds provide the basis for this book which asks planners to make equity the center of their practice. Equity, this book puts forth, has historically been rooted in the planning profession, but the growing socio-economic disparity between the wealthy and working class has prioritized the elites when in placemaking. This book proposes that planners realign their commitment to equity for all in their practice. Planners can utilize their position to advocate for equity in public policies across many areas, including housing, commercial development, land use, and transportation.


Edited by: Aaron Golub, Melody Hoffmann, Adonia E. Lugo, Gerardo F. Sandoval

Bicycle Justice and Urban Transformation: Biking for All? cover

Bicycle commuting is on the rise as communities focus more on zero-emission transportation. While white, middle-class communities have greater resources for commuting by bike (i.e. bike lanes, quality bikes, safety gear), many commuters comprise a diverse, often low-income population that embark on bikes due to economic necessity. This book argues that these underserved communities are overlooked in bicycle planning and policy; safe bike routes and dedicated bike lanes are for the benefit of the privileged who ride by choice, a luxury not experienced by the struggling. Planning focused on equity, social justice, and community-driven investments will ensure progress so all communities can experience a safe commute by bike.


By: Aimi Hamraie

Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability cover

Hamraie offers historical context for how planning and design evolved to a focus on accessibility from the 20th century to the present and further examines the critical disability, racial, and feminist theories that drove spaces and buildings to be more equitable in their accessibility. This book explores how design should center around accessibility for all.



By: Richard Rothstein

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America cover

Informed change to existing standards often requires historical context. In this book, author Richard Rothstein shows us how residential segregation was imposed systemically by the American government. Builders were awarded subsidies in constructing white-only neighborhoods and institutions benefited from tax exemptions when they enforced segregation. Racial zoning (redlining) caused Black communities to experience declining property values and blight from limited tax revenue, severely impacting any chance for building generational wealth. Rothstein illustrates how these and other circumstances have had far-reaching consequences for Black communities.


By: Caroline Criado Pérez

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed For Men cover

Data, argues author Carolina Criado Pérez, is as likely to be guilty of gender bias as people. Data, after all, is produced by people. While data is derived from studies and research, it often fails to account for gender, skewing results. This can have far-reaching consequences in areas dependent on data to create policy, negatively impacting the lives of women. Ciado Pérez digs into the cause of gender bias in data, and in turn offers data centered on female-identifying people in various spheres, including the workplace and at home.


By: Susan S. Fainstein

The Just City cover

The rise of ideological neoliberalism in modern urban planning and policy has succeeded to the detriment of historically underserved communities. The rise in economic resources allocated to progress capitalist development in the urban landscape often came from funding for social programs; author Susan Fainstein argues that this imbalance can be corrected by taking a different approach to urban development. The central ideas of diversity, equity, and democracy are central to enacting justice in the planning profession, and this is demonstrated through case studies presented from all over the world.


By: Bernard H. Siegan

Land Use Without Zoning cover

Originally published in 1973, author Bernard Siegan argues that zoning is inherently exclusionary and should be eliminated as a practice. Zoning is akin to the theory of trickle-down economics, but for land use; the top-down approach ultimately fails urban areas, primarily benefiting the wealthy minority. Siegan holds up the city of Houston, Texas, as a primary example of how the absence of zoning lays the groundwork for greater success in housing equity. Without zoning, housing production is unlimited, creating greater availability for affordable multi-family housing.


By: Norman Krumholz

Making Equity Planning Work: Leadership in the Public Sector cover

As director of the Cleveland City Planning Commission from 1969 to 1979, Norman Krumholz led a team of planners in a concerted effort to bring equity to the forefront of the city's policies. Krumholz and his staff's primary goal was to work to improve the lives of the city's most underserved residents, rather than labor for Cleveland's more wealthy constituents and the development interests of powerful entities. This book is formative to equity in the planning profession; Krumholz provides a first-hand account of his experiences bringing equity into practice in the City of Cleveland. Making Equity Planning Work is a vital publication for progressive, equity-focused planning.


By: Marc Brenman and Thomas W. Sanchez

Planning as if People Matter: Governing for Social Equity cover

In this book, authors Marc Brennan and Thomas W. Sanchez advocate for a more equity-focused approach to planning. Fewer and fewer Americans can afford a home; multigenerational families are living together, and communities are becoming more diverse and economically stressed. Further, there is the increasing threat of extreme weather events as a result of the climate crisis and issues of environmental justice. The authors argue the planning field is not fully prepared to address these major issues, and they offer solutions with hard data as evidence for planning practitioners, public administrators, policy-makers, activists, and students who will need to directly confront these challenges.


Edited by: Petra L. Doan

Planning and LGBTQ Communities: The Need for Inclusive Queer Spaces cover

While LGBTQ+ historical corridors in large urban municipalities are for the most part protected and celebrated, smaller communities may be in danger of disappearing due to area redevelopment, gentrification, and political pressure. The recent uptick of hateful rhetoric, especially towards the trans community, may filter through the political lens, impacting planning practices, and governance. Doan encourages planners to remain vigilant in maintaining the residential and commercial safe havens for the LGBTQ+ community. Planning practitioners, researchers, and administrators outline how the planning profession has enabled or neglected the diverse needs of queer communities.


By: Susan T. Gooden

Race and Social Equity: A Nervous Area of Government cover

The government's hesitancy around issues of equity is the root cause of the lack of advancement in policy. Author Susan T. Gooden argues that this has led to an inability to advance racial equity in government. Until public administrators are willing to effectively address issues of inequity, there will be little to no progress in public policy.




Edited by: Ryan Walker, Ted Jojola, and David Natcher

Reclaiming Indigenous Planning cover

This collection of essays explores how colonialism and neo-colonialism negatively impacted generations of indigenous planning practices, and further outlines how modern indigenous communities can reclaim their autonomy and heritage in planning. With contributions from planning scholars and practitioners, this book prioritizes the rights and interests of indigenous people, whether it be in cities, small municipalities, or reservations. This book includes case studies of indigenous planning practices and shows how urban and rural communities can reformulate planning practices that incorporate cultural identity, traditional knowledge, and stewardship over land and resources.


By: Barbara Brown Wilson

Resilience for All: Striving for Equity Through Community-Driven Design cover

Too often, communities are not given a voice or a choice in the policies that impact the health and safety of residents. Data has shown that communities of color are more likely to be near toxic waste and more vulnerable to climate change. Author Barbara Brown Wilson offers several case studies to demonstrate how change driven by communities in such places as East Biloxi, Mississippi, and Detroit is an effective method for residents to exercise their right to live peacefully in healthy environments.


By: Thomas W. Sanchez and Marc Brenman

The Right to Transportation: Moving to Equity cover

Accessible transportation is vital for those who are not able-bodied, over age 65, and/or low-income. Policies in transportation can limit or expand accessibility to transportation for these and other underserved groups, impacting their ability to work, get an education, seek public services, or even food. The authors argue that policy focus on the U.S. highway system has had consequences for public transit, and therefore, consequences for disadvantaged communities. This book acts as a guide for equity in transportation, which is, as stated in the title, a right.


By: Michael Maly and Heather Dalmage

Vanishing Eden: White Construction of Memory, Meaning, and Identity in a Racially Changing City cover

Whereas The Color of Law examines how policies of segregation impacted Black communities for generations, Vanishing Eden explores the perspective of white people experiencing desegregation, particularly in Chicago for three decades in the later half of the 20th century. How did the changing demographics of neighborhoods affect white community members' perception of race? The authors examine the ways bias and social segregation persevered or evolved during a time of social progress in institutions such as education, employment, and housing.


Top image: E+ Kobus Louw

December 8, 2023