Abstract The mono-centric city model has been proposed to assess the relationship between urban morphology and land-use changes along the urban gradient. Although several studies have shown how compact cities are reorganizing towards a more dispersed morphology, indicators investigating the efficiency in the use of land were rarely used to test the assumptions of the mono-centric model. The present paper compares population dynamics and land-use changes between 1960 and 2010 in two European Mediterranean regions characterized by different morphology and socioeconomic structure. Two indicators of land-use changes have been analyzed in order to quantify the absolute and the per-capita surface areas of three basic uses of land (urban, agricultural, forest). Trends in absolute and per-capita indicators diverged in the two regions suggesting that city's structure influences long-term land-use and population dynamics. The present study contributes to the debate on urban forms indicating that the mono-centric model is associated with a lower per-capita land consumption rate compared to spatial structures that show deviations from mono-centricity.