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Katharine B. Silbaugh, "Women's Place: Urban Planning, Housing Design, and Work-Family Balance", 76 Fordham L. Rev. 1797 (2007)

Katharine Silbaugh’s Women’s Place: Urban Planning, Housing Design, and Work-Family Balance examines the spatial dimension of the work-family balance issue. Urban planning and housing design further the tensions faced by working caregivers, the overwhelmingly majority of whom are women. Heightened awareness of the gender inequalities arising from the built environment could incite planners and lawyers alike to enact land use regulations that address this disparity.


Silbaugh pinpoints three primary concerns over the built environment:  

1.     Sprawl: a “time sponge in the lives of today’s parents” that separates homes and workplaces, physically separating a caregiver from her dependents.

2.     Single-use zoning: the lack of dense, mixed-use neighborhoods resulting from the prevalence of single-use zoning prevents work, home, school, and retail spaces from being in a compact and convenient geographical area.

3.     Single-family homes: the design of the single-family home does not adequately meet the modern needs of working families, an idea promulgated extensively by Dolores Hayden.


Silbaugh offers a comprehensive yet accessible account, moving through the construction of the work-family balance issue and its implications for women before discussing the inadequate legal reforms and employment policies attempting to solve it. Silbaugh chronicles the roots of the U.S. housing marking following World War II and the extensive federal support for single-family homes at the detriment of multi-family units. Such zoning regulations led to the predominance of the single-family home and of single-use zoning, creating today’s sprawled suburban communities. This backdrop sets the stage for introducing the spatial element that constrains working caregivers. Silbaugh seeks to introduce the gender of sprawl into the legal arena, hoping such awareness translates to policies that better meet the needs of working caregivers. While Silbaugh does not offer any suggestions on what policies could lessen the strain of sprawl on working families, working across the fields of planning and law may offer the first step.



Katharine B. Silbaugh, Women’s Place: Urban Planning, Housing Design, and Work-Family Balance, 76 Fordham L. Rev. 1797 (2007).