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We investigate spatial patterns of residential and non- residential land use for 257 U.S. metropolitan areas in 1990 and 2000, measured with 14 empirical indices. We find that metropolitan areas became denser during the 1990s but developed in more sprawl-like patterns across all other dimensions, on average. By far the largest changes in our land use metrics occurred in the realm of employment, which became more prevalent per unit of geographic area, but less spatially concentrated and further from the historical urban core, on average. Our exploratory factor analyses reveal that four factors summarize land use patterns in both years, and remained relatively stable across the two years: intensity, compactness, mixing, and core-dominance. Mean factor scores vary by metropolitan population, water proximity, type, and Census region. Improved measurement of metropolitan land use patterns can facilitate policy and planning decisions intended to minimize the most egregious aspects of urban sprawl.


Public Policy | Urban Studies | Urban Studies and Planning


NOTICE IN COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLISHER POLICY: This is the authors’ accepted manuscript version of an article subsequently published in Urban Geography 35(1), 2014, pp. 25-47, available online at 10.1080/02723638.2013.823730. This version has been formatted for archiving. (1962 kB)
Author's unformatted final accepted manuscript