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Causes of Sprawl: A Portrait from Space

  • Marcy Burchfield

    (Neptis Foundation)

  • Henry G. Overman

    (London School of Economics and CEPR)

  • Diego Puga

    (University of Toronto, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, CREI, CEPR, and NBER)

  • Matthew A. Turner

    (University of Toronto)

We study the extent to which U. S. urban development is sprawling and what determines differences in sprawl across space. Using remote-sensing data to track the evolution of land use on a grid of 8.7 billion 30 � 30 meter cells, we measure sprawl as the amount of undeveloped land surrounding an average urban dwelling. The extent of sprawl remained roughly unchanged between 1976 and 1992, although it varied dramatically across metropolitan areas. Ground water availability, temperate climate, rugged terrain, decentralized employment, early public transport infrastructure, uncertainty about metropolitan growth, and unincorporated land in the urban fringe all increase sprawl. Copyright (c) 2006 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 121 (2006)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 587-633

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:121:y:2006:i:2:p:587-633
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