The Long-Run Impact of Zoning in US Cities

  • Tate TwinamEmail author


Since the early twentieth century, virtually every city in the USA has embraced comprehensive zoning as a means to shape and control the development of land use. Early zoning regulations took cues from existing land use patterns while also attempting to reduce land use conflict by enforcing a greater separation of incompatible uses. Zoning and land use have since coevolved endogenously over the course of the following century. This chapter synthesizes and elaborates on the work of Shertzer et al. (J Urban Econ 105:20–39, 2018) and Twinam (Reg Sci Urban Econ 73:155–169, 2018) aimed at measuring the causal impact of early zoning laws on the long-run evolution of land use in US cities. Using a wide variety of detailed pre-zoning microdata and digitized zoning maps from two major US cities, Chicago and Seattle, I employ several analytical approaches to answer the following questions: (1) To what extent did initial zoning efforts conflict or coincide with existing land uses? (2) Did zoning effect substantial changes in land use patterns? (3) How does the impact of zoning on the long-run development of land use compare to that of other important economic determinants, such as pre-existing land use patterns, geography, transportation, and demographics? My results suggest that zoning has played an influential role in determining the economic geography of US cities.


Zoning Land use Seattle Chicago 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsCollege of William & MaryWilliamsburgUSA

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