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The urban landscape in the United States has been characterized by sprawl for decades. Despite arguments in favor of sprawl or its component attributes, it is widely believed that sprawl leads to many contemporary United States urban and environmental problems. Since 1961, 15 states in the United States have adopted state growth management programs (SGMPs) with various goals, including curtailing sprawl. This article, among a few previous studies, examines the effectiveness of SGMPs on containing sprawl. We create sprawl indices for 294 metropolitan areas in 1990 and 2000, measuring two major dimensions of sprawl: density and land-use mixture. Our examination of SGMPs involves not only a dummy variable indicating whether a SGPM exists or not, but a score system measuring the degree of state involvement in local growth management and three variables measuring three major attributes of SGMPs. With the refined measurements for both sprawl and SGMPs, we examine the impacts of SGMPs on the sprawl measures in the 1990s of the selected metropolitan areas in the United States. Our statistical results show that SGMPs effectively promoted compact development in terms of population density and land-use mixture. However, the statistical results do not support the claim that SGMPs with a higher degree of state involvement in local growth management, on average, worked better at curtailing sprawl than those with a lower-degree involvement in the 1990s. This article suggests that state governments in the United States should more fully exercise their responsibilities to control urban sprawl rather than just leave this issue to local devices.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Louisville

Publication date: 01 May 2007

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