NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Congressional Study Rejects "Sprawl" Theory

April 30, 1999

In a blow to Vice President Al Gore's contention that America's open spaces are being eaten up by suburbs, the General Accounting Office finds no statistical evidence to back up the theory.

  • The long-awaited, 11-month study finds largely anecdotal evidence that current federal programs push development away from central cities.
  • There is no consensus among researchers that transportation spending on new highways, environmental regulations, housing policies and tax incentives cause "sprawl."
  • The GAO even cites some positive aspects of sprawl -- such as increased home ownership and cheaper places for businesses.
  • In the opinion of Sam Staley, director of the Reason Public Policy Institute's Urban Futures Program, there is very little the federal government can do to stem sprawl -- which he characterizes as "a quintessential state and local issue."

A disappointed Sierra Club spokeswoman, whose organization had looked forward to a finding that would boost objections to suburban sprawl, said the club "had expected something emphatic."

Vice President Al Gore has made "smart growth" -- a catchword for anti-sprawl -- a centerpiece of his presidential campaign.

Source: Haya El Nasser, "Congressional Sprawl Study Fails to Find Culprit, USA Today, April 30, 1999.


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