Wrestling Sprawl to the Ground: Defining and measuring an elusive concept

George Galster, Royce Hanson, Michael R. Ratcliffe, Harold Wolman, Stephen Coleman, Jason Freihage
2001 Housing Policy Debate  
The literature on urban sprawl confuses causes, consequences, and conditions. This article presents a conceptual definition of sprawl based on eight distinct dimensions of land use patterns: density, continuity, concentration, clustering, centrality, nuclearity, mixed uses, and proximity. Sprawl is defined as a condition of land use that is represented by low values on one or more of these dimensions. Each dimension is operationally defined and tested in 13 urbanized areas. Results for six
more » ... esults for six dimensions are reported for each area, and an initial comparison of the extent of sprawl in the 13 areas is provided. The test confirms the utility of the approach and suggests that a clearer conceptual and operational definition can facilitate research on the causes and consequences of sprawl. A metaphor rich in ambiguity Urban sprawl is one name for many conditions. It has been attached to patterns of residential and nonresidential land use, to the process of extending the reach of urbanized areas (UAs), to the causes of particular practices of land use, and to the consequences of those practices. Sprawl has been denounced on aesthetic, efficiency, equity, and environmental grounds and defended on choice, equality, and economic grounds. Sprawl has become the metaphor of choice for the shortcomings of the suburbs and the frustrations of central cities. It explains everything and nothing. Housing Policy Debate · Volume 12, Issue 4 681
doi:10.1080/10511482.2001.9521426 fatcat:iwao3xxldjgqdac72crowbbvv4