Forum for Social Economics

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 51–64 | Cite as

Do economists have anything to contribute to the debate on urban sprawl? (and would anbody listen to them if they did?)

  • Paul D. Gottlieb
Symposium Urban Sprawl


This essay explores reasons for the relative shortage of work by economists on the subject of urban sprawl. I argue that a correct economic understanding of the sprawl issue is difficult to communicate. Meanwhile, a simplified caricature of economic thinking on sprawl has emerged. It argues that decentralized, low-density development has been chosen by the “free market”, therefore the problem signified by the word sprawl does not exist. This argument, made in the name of economics but not always by economists, has served to polarize the detabe as much as to enlighten it. I propose an alternative understanding of the economics of sprawl that provides common ground for debate among economists, planners, and politicians.


Design Pattern Market Failure Social Economic Urban Sprawl Urban Economic 
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Copyright information

© Association for Social Economics 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul D. Gottlieb
    • 1
  1. 1.Case Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

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