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Urban Sprawl: Diagnosis and Remedies


  • Jan K. Brueckner

    (Department of Economics and Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,


This article argues that urban spatial expansion results mainly from three powerful forces: a growing population, rising incomes, and falling commuting costs. Urban growth occurring purely in response to these fundamental forces cannot be faulted as socially undesirable, but three market failures may distort their operation, upsetting the allocation of land between agricultural and urban uses and justifying criticism of urban sprawl. These are the failure to account for the benefits of open space, excessive commuting because of a failure to account for the social costs of congestion, and failure to make new development pay for the infrastructure costs it generates. Precise remedies for these market failures are two types of development taxes and congestion tolls levied on commuters. Each of these remedies leads to a reduction in the spatial size of the city.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan K. Brueckner, 2000. "Urban Sprawl: Diagnosis and Remedies," International Regional Science Review, , vol. 23(2), pages 160-171, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:inrsre:v:23:y:2000:i:2:p:160-171

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