Out of Control Policy Blog

Sprawl Brawl over?

Joel Kotkin has declared the Sprawl Brawl over. Sprawl has won, he says here.

Sprawl critics aren't going to give up, of course, but Kotkin makes a pretty compelling case:

    Since 1950, more than 90 percent of metropolitan population growth in America has taken place in the suburbs. Today, roughly two out of three people in the nation's metro areas are suburban dwellers. "The burbs" have become the homeland of American success, with an increasing share of our national wealth and half the poverty of the urban core ...

    Instead of clustering in large, crowded cities, Americans are building bigger and bigger houses -- twice the size of those in 1950 -- and doing so increasingly in low-density, low-cost regions such as Orlando, Fla., San Bernardino-Riverside, Calif., Phoenix and Las Vegas, where job growth has also been most robust.

What about the future?

    Over the next quarter century, according to a Brookings Institution study, the nation will add 50 percent to the current stock of houses, offices and shops, and the great majority of that new building will take place in lower-density locations, not traditional inner cities.

Even rising energy prices probably won't stop the burbs.

    Suburbanization proceeded apace during the steep energy price rises of the 1970s; it has also accelerated in Europe and Japan, where energy prices are already sky-high.

Many cities around the world have very extensive rail transit systems, which are often billed as sprawl-stoppers, and yet:

    [V]irtually every major metropolitan area in the advanced world is suburbanizing, and usually rapidly. The urban centers of Tokyo, Sydney, London, Frankfurt and even that paragon of enforced centralization, Paris, are either losing population or barely holding steady as both jobs and people flee to the periphery.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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