The Relationship Between Residential Development and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Posted: 27 Jan 2011

See all articles by Eric Fruits

Eric Fruits

International Center for Law & Economics (ICLE); Portland State University; Economics International Corp.

Date Written: August 29, 2008


This literature review examines the existing body of literature on the linkage between residential development and its impacts on the environment through air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. The research finds that, in the absence of reliable scientific studies, policy is often stimulated by “concept studies” or “frameworks.” These studies assume, or presume, relationships that have not been reliably demonstrated.

In nearly every study to date, the data presented tends to support policy prescriptions rather than to test hypotheses. These studies hypothesize full-effect relationships without empirical study or through informal data analysis.

A review of the literature find variability not only in the quality of the literature, but also in the consistency throughout. For example, the planning literature makes the intuitively plausible assumption that more density yields less environmental damage. Yet the scientific literature on regarding the relationship of density and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions is mixed. After controlling for other causes (e.g., income) some studies measure the effects as small. Overall, research to date does not provide sufficient evidence guide policy in one direction or another.

Keywords: residential development, greenhouse gases, emissions, GHG

JEL Classification: R31, L74, Q41, Q48, Q25, Q28

Suggested Citation

Fruits, Eric, The Relationship Between Residential Development and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (August 29, 2008). Available at SSRN:

Eric Fruits (Contact Author)

International Center for Law & Economics (ICLE) ( email )

2117 NE Oregon St.
Suite 501
Portland, OR 97232
United States


Portland State University ( email )

United States


Economics International Corp. ( email )

4318 NE Royal Court
Portland, OR 97213
United States
503-928-6635 (Phone)


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