Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Causes of Urban Sprawl (Decentralization) in the United States: Natural Evolution, Flight from Blight, and the Fiscalization of Land Use

Robert W. Wassmer
Department of Public Policy and Administration
Sacramento State University

David Edwards
California Bureau of State Audits

January 10, 2005

Relying upon three theories previously offered by economists to explain differences in the degree of decentralization observed across urban areas; this paper uses regression analysis to examine what causes this form of “urban sprawl” in the United States. Building on Brueckner and Fansler’s (1983) analysis, we find evidence that explanatory factors associated with the “natural evolution” and the “flight-from-blight” theories of causes of urban dispersion do influence differences in the year 2000 square mile size of United States’ urbanized areas. Our regression results also offer support for the presence of one form of “fiscalization of land use”, and for regional variation in United States’ urban decentralization that may be due to differences in land use history and/or institutions. If so desired, the empirical evidence offered here could be used to craft policy prescriptions to alter the course of sprawl in an urban area.

34 pages, PDF

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