Urban Decentralization, Suburbanization, and Sprawl: An Equity Perspective

Joseph Persky and Wim Wiewel

in The Oxford Handbook of Urban Economics and Planning

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195380620
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Urban Decentralization, Suburbanization, and Sprawl: An Equity Perspective

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  • Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics


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This article argues that public policy should focus more sharply on the distributional consequences of sprawl. There are two sides to a sprawl. On one side is the market-oriented position that maintains urban decentralization. On the other side is the market failure position that argues low-density suburbanization has been an inefficient and inequitable outcome. However, the argument states that the benefits and costs of both are large and roughly of the same order of magnitude, making policy choices far more difficult and the debate far more intense. Both sides are tempted to build on the logic of their own position and trivialize the critiques of the other in an effort to deny the underlying complexity of the welfare analysis of metropolitan form. As long as the population keeps growing, metropolitan areas will continue to expand at relatively low densities and the debate about sprawl will continue.

Keywords: sprawl; decentralization; suburbanization; market failure; welfare analysis; metropolitan; public policy

Article.  6838 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics

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