NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Euro Sprawl

September 14, 2000

Urban sprawl, the tendency of metropolitan regions to spread out in all directions as people moving up the economic ladder move out to the suburbs, is not unique to America.

Populations in central cities worldwide have been shrinking, says Steven Hayward. And European cities, which the "smart growth" movement frequently praises for their public transit and "compact" development patterns, are sprawling faster than American cities.

Between 1970 and 1990, for example,

  • The developed area of Amsterdam expanded 12 percent while the city's population declined 12.4 percent, and Copenhagen's developed area expanded 10.3 percent while its population declined 14 percent.
  • In Germany, the area of Frankfurt expanded 33.3 percent while population declined 5.4 percent, and Hamburg expanded 54.6 percent while population declined 7.9 percent.
  • And although the population of Paris rose 15.3 percent, its developed area increased by more than half (54.3 percent).

As a result, population density in all of these cities declined 20 percent to 30 percent.

People prefer to live in the suburbs, where population density, crime and taxes are lower. And as result of increased affluence, they can afford to. In the U.S., the majority of the increases in automobile ownership and vehicle miles traveled over the past 20 years occurred among working women and minorities, according to transportation analyst Alan Pisarski.

Source: Steven Hayward, "'Growing Pains': The NGA's Flawed Report on Sprawl," Backgrounder No. 1393, September 13, 2000, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002, (202) 546-4400.

 

Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues