, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 177–203 | Cite as

Urban sprawl and local fiscal burden: analysing the Spanish case

  • Laura Varela-CandamioEmail author
  • Fernando Rubiera Morollón
  • Gohar Sedrakyan
Original Paper


Urban sprawl is rapidly occurring in many Spanish urban areas. The objective of this paper is to evaluate how the trend of building dispersion of new residential areas may be affecting the fiscal stability of local governments in Spain. The wide diversity of the characteristics of Spanish urban areas as well as the existence of very similar local fiscal structures make this case particularly interesting. After delimiting the urban areas and the spatial unit of analysis, a precise index of urban sprawl, calculated with geo-referenced digital cartography, is used. Using the spatially disaggregated information of taxes from the Spanish National Institute for Fiscal Studies allows for a measure of fiscal burden by local areas and the ability to distinguish among types of taxes. Control variables are also available at the local level from the Spanish Census and other databases. Two methods, quantile regressions and ordinary least squares, are used in order to measure not only the average change but the heterogeneity across the distribution of the local fiscal burden associated with the changes in urban sprawl, whilst controlling for other explanatory variables in the model. The results indicate that higher levels of urban sprawl imply higher local fiscal burden. By tax categories, the phenomenon of urban sprawl particularly affects both local indirect and direct taxation. These results suggest that local decision-makers should consider urban planning as one of the fundamental tools to assure long-term local fiscal sustainability.


Urban sprawl Fiscal burden Local public services Geo-referenced digital cartography Quantile regression Spain 

JEL Classification

R1 R5 H7 H8 



We would like to thank the editor Peter Huber, and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions. The first author, as a visiting scholar in the IRPET, would like to express her very great appreciation to Patrizia Lattarulo and also Claudia Ferretti for their valuable and constructive suggestions during the second review of this research work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, C+D Jean Monnet Group & RIFDE, Faculty of Economics and BusinessUniversity of A CorunaA CorunaSpain
  2. 2.REGIOlab, Regional Economics LaboratoryUniversity of OviedoOviedoSpain
  3. 3.International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy StudiesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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