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Unsubsidizing Suburbia

Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 90, pp. 459-99, 2005

Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 05-17

41 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2005  

Nicole Stelle Garnett

Notre Dame Law School


This Essay reviews Richardson Dilworth, 'The Urban Origins of Suburban Autonomy' (Harvard University Press 2005). Dilworth's history of metropolitan New York City and northern New Jersey seeks to connect early public infrastructure investments and suburban political autonomy. This Essay uses Dilworth's case studies of early metropolitan fragmentation as a springboard for discussing the continued connection between public infrastructure investment, suburban growth, and intra-metropolitan equity. In particular, the Essay examines the tendency among opponents of metropolitan fragmentation to embrace limits on infrastructure subsidies. These policies have intuitive appeal: If infrastructure subsidies foster sprawl and enable metropolitan fragmentation, then limiting subsidies should limit sprawl (and perhaps fragmentation as well). Unfortunately, using infrastructure policies to curb suburban growth and rein in municipal autonomy may have negative distributional consequences including, importantly, a loss of affordable housing and a related reduction in opportunities for intra-metropolitan mobility.

Keywords: Metropolitan, regional government, growth management, suburban, fragmentation, infrastructure

JEL Classification: H1, H2, H23, H41, H7, H70, H71, H77, K11, K32, R52

Suggested Citation

Garnett, Nicole Stelle, Unsubsidizing Suburbia. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 90, pp. 459-99, 2005; Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 05-17. Available at SSRN:

Nicole Stelle Garnett (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States
574-631-3091 (Phone)


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