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Veblen in the Metropolis: Land Use Proximity in United States Urban Landscapes


  • E. Anthon Eff


Some land uses are considered incompatible. When a parcel is bordered by parcels with incompatible land uses, external costs will impact the property owner. Collective action by property owners then results in land use regulations designed to restrict neighboring parcels from incompatible uses. The pattern of observed land use contiguities thus testifies to cultural notions regarding incompatible land uses. Using urban planning data, a GIS, and methods from social network analysis, this paper attempts to uncover the tacit rules of spatial proximity among land uses in a United States city. The most salient patterns are a separation between places of residence and places of work, a separation of single family homes from other residential land uses, a separation of rural land uses from everything else, and a separation of condominiums from everything else. The paper then attempts to tie these observed spatial patterns to ideas from Thorstein Veblen, Georg Simmel, and Mancur Olson. It is suggested that the United States urban landscape has been shaped by the ethos of the middle class under capitalism, especially the cult of the family and the need to display status.

Suggested Citation

  • E. Anthon Eff, 2013. "Veblen in the Metropolis: Land Use Proximity in United States Urban Landscapes," Working Papers 201301, Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Economics and Finance.
  • Handle: RePEc:mts:wpaper:201301

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Offer, Avner, 2007. "The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199216628.
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    More about this item


    built environment; symbolism; land use patterns;

    JEL classification:

    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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