First Advisor

Jennifer H. Allen

Term of Graduation

Spring 2020

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Affairs and Policy


Public Affairs and Policy




Equality, Planning, Minorities, Social justice, Group decision making



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 187 pages)


The use of equity lenses is growing rapidly in the public sector as a means to reform institutional practices that produce racialized outcomes; yet, organizations are interpreting and using an equity lens in different ways, leaving open questions on the extent to which a lens addresses structural inequalities. This dissertation focuses on an in-depth case study of a planning process that incorporated an equity lens in the development of a large scale urban system plan in Portland (OR) to build understanding of how an equity lens may change the institutional planning process. Insights from the study suggest an equity lens addresses structural inequalities in the planning process in three main ways: 1) by shifting underlying values for decision making by taking into account social structural relations that provide for differences in social identity, power and opportunity and attributing value to the "lived experience" in policy deliberation; 2) by providing special treatment for oppressed groups in decision making including appointed representation and compensation; and 3) by positioning these groups at the onset of the planning process and in advance of each decision point, allowing them to interact directly with decision makers rather than later as a review body. While the potential for the use of an equity lens to address structural inequalities appears substantial, the case study suggests factors such as organizational policies and values within the institutional environment that may either constrain or support the use of an equity lens.


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