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Causes of sprawl: A portrait from space

  • Marcy Burchfield
  • Henry G. Overman
  • Diego Puga
  • Matthew A. Turner

We study the extent to which US urban development is sprawling and consider 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 30x30 metre cells, we measure sprawl as the amount of undeveloped land surrounding an average urban dwelling. On this measure, while the extent of sprawl remained roughly unchanged between 1976 and 1992, 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.

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Paper provided by University of Toronto, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number tecipa-192.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 10 Sep 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-192
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