Thesis

Place and poverty: how does sprawl affect poverty rates in U.S. central places?

Economists have long been interested in understanding the relationship between economic inequality and urban form. Suburban white-flight, flight from blight, and spatial mismatch between jobs and low-income neighborhoods are believed to contribute to poverty and reduced economic opportunity. Using Census data for all U.S. central places and urbanized areas, along with an array of sprawl measures, this thesis tests for a relationship between sprawl and the change in poverty rates in central places between 2000 and 2010. The results show urban area density consistently has a negative affect on the change in poverty rates within central places. Results show that for a density increase of 1000 people within an urban area, we expect to see the change in poverty rate in central places decline by 4 to 8 percent, holding other factors constant. The study finds however that other sprawl measures used, such as centrality, or mix of land uses, do not appear to have a statistically significant effect on poverty rates. This study also finds evidence that state and local growth controls may also have a statistically significant relationship to changing poverty rates. Certain types of growth control may exacerbate poverty rates in local jurisdictions.

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