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Urban sprawl and the cost of public services

  • Education
  • Political Science


One of the principle criticisms of urban sprawl is that it undermines the cost-effective provision of public services. In this paper the authors examine whether or not this is true through an exploratory analysis of the influence that alternative development patterns have on twelve measures of public expenditure: total direct, capital facilities, roadways, other transportation, sewerage, trash collection, housing and community development, police protection, fire protection, parks, education, and libraries. The objectives of the analysis are threefold. First, the authors, through a background discussion, provide a brief overview of previous research on the relationship between urban development patterns and the cost of public services. Second, through empirical analysis, they examine how the character of urban development affects per capita public outlays in a cross-section of 283 metropolitan counties during the 1982 - 92 time period. A separate equation is estimated for each measure of expenditure, providing substantive evidence on how density, the spatial extent of urbanized land area, property value, and political fragmentation affect the cost of services. Finally, the authors use the results of the empirical analysis to develop a set of policy recommendations and directions for future research.

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