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Urban Sprawl and the Property Tax


  • Brueckner, Jan K
  • Kim, Hyun-A


This paper explores the connection between the property tax and urban sprawl. While the tax's depressing effect on improvements reduces population density, spurring the spatial expansion of cities, a countervailing effect from lower dwelling sizes may dominate, raising densities and making cities smaller. The analysis shows that this latter outcome is guaranteed under CES preferences when the elasticity of substitution sigma is high. But numerical results for the Leontief case (where sigma is zero) suggest that the property tax encourages urban sprawl when substitution between housing and other goods is low. Thus, the distortions generated by the property tax may include inefficient spatial expansion of cities, suggesting the tax may belong on the list of causal factors identified by critics of urban sprawl. Copyright 2003 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

Suggested Citation

  • Brueckner, Jan K & Kim, Hyun-A, 2003. "Urban Sprawl and the Property Tax," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 10(1), pages 5-23, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:10:y:2003:i:1:p:5-23

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