March 30, 2005

The Emergence of the Galactic City: Population and Employment Growth in American Metropolitan Areas, 1970-2000

Alexander von Hoffman

W05-3: The notion that the American city is decentralizing is by no means news. Writers on the city from the time of Lewis Mumford have decried unplanned urban (or suburban) sprawl. Since the 1970s, social scientists and historians, shocked and awed by the dramatic growth of suburbia, have sought new ways to describe the changes in the form of American cities. During the 1990s, sprawl—thanks to increasing traffic congestion and despoiled landscapes—became so controversial that in 2000 Al Gore raised it as an issue in his ill-fated run for the presidency. Most recent research on the subject has concentrated on creating statistical measures of sprawl, and the resulting studies are, by and large, static analyses of large numbers of metropolitan areas at one point in time; they frequently neglect the historical and geographical dimensions of the phenomenon. As a way of complementing the sprawl-measurement type of studies, I have plotted the location of people and employment in urban regions across time, specifically between 1970 and 2000. The statistics and Geographic Information System maps derived from this effort indicates not only the extent of urban sprawl, but also that large parts of the United States are being transformed into vast urban regions…

Category: Working Papers

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