Study: Urban Sprawl Increasing Beyond the 'Burbs

Despite reports to the contrary, urban sprawl has continued to grow significantly for the past several decades, according to researchers.

A study of changing land-use patterns in the state of Maryland found substantial and significant increases in sprawl between 1973 and 2000.

"We found that the areas where sprawl increased the most were in the exurban areas -- out beyond even the suburbs," said Elena Irwin, co-author of the study and associate professor of environmental economics at Ohio State University.

The study looked for evidence of fragmented land use -- areas where housing was juxtaposed with agriculture or forested areas, for example. That's one of the basic hallmarks of sprawl, the researchers said.

According to the results, the level of peak land-use fragmentation was 60 percent greater in 2000 than it was in 1973 and shifted outward from the central cities to a distance of 55 miles in 2000, up from about 40 miles in 1973.

Fragmented land use increased the most in non-urban areas located about 80 miles from the nearest city, the researchers found.

"People are moving further and further away from the center of cities and increasingly more people are living on larger lots," she said. "That's increasing the level of sprawl."

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