Social Indicators Research

, Volume 140, Issue 3, pp 929–952 | Cite as

Developing an Index to Measure Sub-municipal Level Urban Sprawl

  • David Gálvez Ruiz
  • Pilar Diaz Cuevas
  • Olta Braçe
  • Marco Garrido-Cumbrera


The present study aims to develop an index composed of different spatial variables to measure the urban sprawl levels of a municipality located in Southern Spain. According to the findings, urban sprawl can be measured not only on the metropolitan level but also on a more detailed and precise level, such as sub-municipal. A group of experts chosen for their suitability in measuring urban sprawl select six spatial variables (population density, net residential density, coverage ratio, land use types, percentage of residential land use, and average year of construction). These variables are aggregated using Choquet integral, a technique that combines interactions between those variables providing greater coherence to the complexity that is inherent in the creation of composite sprawl indexes. This methodology has been demonstrated to be valid and appropriate in evaluating urban expansion at sub-municipal level, but can also be applied to other scales once it is clearly a phenomenon in which interaction between criteria exists. The resulting composite index allows the assignment of different levels of sprawl to the urban areas consistent with their morphology and landscape.


Urban sprawl Composite index Choquet integral Sub-municipal level 

JEL Classification




The results of this article are part of the R&D Project entitled “Evaluation of the Impact of Urban Sprawl on the Lifestyles, Commuting and Health of the Adult Population in Spanish Metropolitan Areas (URDIS)” (CSO2014-59524-P) (Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness (Spain)/ERDF/EU), involving the Universities of Seville and the Basque Country.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Gálvez Ruiz
    • 1
  • Pilar Diaz Cuevas
    • 2
  • Olta Braçe
    • 2
  • Marco Garrido-Cumbrera
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Statistics and Operational ResearchUniversidad de SevillaSevilleSpain
  2. 2.Department of Physical Geography and Regional Geographic AnalysisUniversidad de SevillaSevilleSpain

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