The Fiscal Impacts of Urban Sprawl: Evidence from U.S. County Areas

32 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2011 Last revised: 17 Jun 2017

Date Written: June 15, 2017


This paper examines the fiscal impacts of urban development patterns in the United States. Previous studies have indicated that low-density, spatially expansive development patterns are costly to provide public services leading to higher per capita expenditures. However, theory would suggest alternate outcomes. These two possibilities are examined empirically using a panel dataset of U.S. county areas from 1982 to 2012 and a specification allowing for a potential non-linearity between development patterns and per capita expenditures. Estimates indicate that the spatial extent of urban development is the most important, suggesting that more compact development is less costly to provide public services. Increased density increases per capita expenditures suggesting ``urban harshness''; however, the effects are quantitatively small.

Keywords: urban sprawl, population density, local government finance

JEL Classification: H72, R14, R51

Suggested Citation

Goodman, Christopher B., The Fiscal Impacts of Urban Sprawl: Evidence from U.S. County Areas (June 15, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Christopher B. Goodman (Contact Author)

University of Nebraska at Omaha ( email )

6001 Dodge Street
Omaha, NE 68182
United States

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