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A Simple Theory of Smart Growth and Sprawl

  • Matthew Allen Turner

This paper considers the simultaneous determination of residential density and the supply of local versus remote retail services. Possible equilibrium development patterns either correspond closely to what anti-sprawl activists describe as smart growth, or to its opposite. Equilibrium and optimal patterns of development do not always coincide. When equilibrium and optimal patterns of development diverge, optimal density is always discretely (as opposed to marginally) higher than equilibrium density. This occurs in the absence of congestion externalities, and is due to a free-rider problem and a coordination problem. The analysis indicates that a tax on large lots or a subsidy for small lots may be welfare improving under certain conditions.

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File URL: http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/public/workingPapers/tecipa-208-1.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Toronto, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number tecipa-208.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: 31 Mar 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-208
Contact details of provider: Postal: 150 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario
Phone: (416) 978-5283

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  1. Brueckner, Jan K., 1987. "The structure of urban equilibria: A unified treatment of the muth-mills model," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 20, pages 821-845 Elsevier.
  2. Marcus Berliant & Hideo Konishi, 2000. "The Endogenous Formation of a City: Population Agglomeration and Marketplaces in a Location-Specific Production Economy," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 451, Boston College Department of Economics.
  3. Duranton, Gilles & Puga, Diego, 2004. "Micro-foundations of urban agglomeration economies," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 48, pages 2063-2117 Elsevier.
  4. Berliant, M. & Fujita, M., 1990. "Alonso'S Discrete Population Model Of Land Use: Efficient Allocations And Competitive Equilibria," RCER Working Papers 217, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  5. Harrison, David Jr. & Kain, John F., 1974. "Cumulative urban growth and urban density functions," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 61-98, January.
  6. Marcy Burchfield & Henry G. Overman & Diego Puga & Matthew A. Turner, 2005. "Causes of sprawl: A portrait from space," Working Papers tecipa-192, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
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