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Causes of Urban Sprawl in the United States: Auto reliance as compared to natural evolution, flight from blight, and local revenue reliance

  • Robert W. Wassmer

    (California State University, Sacramento)

This paper describes a statistical study of the contribution of theories previously offered by economists to explain differences in the degree of urban decentralization in the U.S. The focus is on a relative comparison of the influence of auto reliance. A regression analysis reveals that a 10 percent reduction in the percentage of households owning one or more autos would reduce the square mile size of an urban area by only 0.5 percent and raise its population density by only 0.7 percent. Factors falling under the categories of “natural evolution” and “flight from blight” exert a far greater magnitude of influence. For instance, a 10 percent reduction in per capita income would reduce the square mile size of an urban area by 11.4 percent and raise its population density by 10.1 percent, while a 10 percent decrease in the percentage central place(s) population poor would reduce the square mile size of an urban area by 2.6 percent and raise its population density by 1.7 percent. A significant increase in urban decentralization will require more than just reduced auto reliance. © 2008 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Volume (Year): 27 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 536-555

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Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:27:y:2008:i:3:p:536-555
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  1. Thomas J. Nechyba & Randall P. Walsh, 2004. "Urban Sprawl," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 177-200, Fall.
  2. Paul G. Lewis, 2001. "Retail Politics: Local Sales Taxes and the Fiscalization of Land Use," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 15(1), pages 21-35, February.
  3. Joshua Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 2001. "Instrumental Variables and the Search for Identification: From Supply and Demand to Natural Experiments," NBER Working Papers 8456, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Robert W. Wassmer, 2002. "Fiscalisation of Land Use, Urban Growth Boundaries and Non-central Retail Sprawl in the Western United States," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 39(8), pages 1307-1327, July.
  5. Robert W. Wassmer, 2006. "The Influence of Local Urban Containment Policies and Statewide Growth Management on the Size of United States Urban Areas," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(1), pages 25-65.
  6. Michael P. Murray, 2006. "Avoiding Invalid Instruments and Coping with Weak Instruments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 111-132, Fall.
  7. Peter Mieszkowski & Edwin S. Mills, 1993. "The Causes of Metropolitan Suburbanization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 135-147, Summer.
  8. Brueckner, Jan K & Kim, Hyun-A, 2003. "Urban Sprawl and the Property Tax," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 5-23, January.
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