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Urban sprawl and population growth

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A weekly presentation of downloadable charts and short analyses designed to graphically illustrate important economic issues. Updated every Wednesday.

Snapshot for August 11, 1999

Urban sprawl and population growth

All major metropolitan areas face the problems of increased urban sprawl — loss of natural vegetation, loss of open spaces, and a general decline in the size of wetlands and wildlife habitat. As we are now learning, the problems associated with urban sprawl can have an immense impact on the local land and its populations (flora, fauna, and human), but since these changes occur incrementally, they are often difficult to grasp.

The chart identifies the 10 metropolitan areas in the Unites States with the worst urban sprawl trends. Specifically, the chart shows that land use within these regions is growing at a disproportionate rate relative to population growth in the 1990s. In other words, urban growth patterns for most these areas have far surpassed the population growth rate that could conceivably justify such expansion.

For the people living in these areas, the most significant detriments associated with sprawl include traffic congestion, longer commutes to and from work, worsening air and water pollution, and increased taxes to pay for over-extended services and ever-expanding infrastructure.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau and the Sierra Club.

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