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Fragmentation and Sprawl: Evidence from Interregional Analysis

By John I. Carruthers


Recent years have witnessed widespread expansion of state and regional planning programs in the United States. A major purpose of these efforts is to reduce urban sprawl-low density, discontinuous, suburban-style development, often characterized as the result of rapid, unplanned, and/or uncoordinated growth- by promoting jurisdictional cooperation and regulatory consistency across metropolitan areas. This paper evaluates the efficacy of this approach by examining the relationship between governmental fragmentation and several measurable outcomes of urban development: density, urbanized land area, property value, and public expenditures on infrastructure. The four dimensions are modeled in a simultaneous equations framework, providing substantive evidence on how fragmentation and other exogenous factors affect metropolitan growth patterns. Fragmentation is associated with lower densities and higher property values, but has no direct effect on public service expenditures; less fragmented metropolitan areas occupy greater amounts of land due to the extensive annexation needed to bring new development under the control of a central municipality. The findings of the analysis lend support to state and regional planning efforts aimed at increasing cooperation among local governments, but also suggest that further research is needed in order to evaluate whether or not they produce their intended effects. Copyright 2002 Gatton College of Business and Economics, University of Kentucky.

DOI identifier: 10.1111/1468-2257.00193
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