Centre for Vocational Education Research LSE RSS Email Facebook Twitter


Journal article
Causes of sprawl: a portrait from space
Marcy Burchfield, Henry G. Overman, Diego Puga and Matthew A. Turner
May 2006
Paper No' :

Tags: economic geography; urban development; metropolitan growth; transport infrastructure

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