Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Michael Ash

Second Advisor

Carol Heim

Third Advisor

Henry Renski

Subject Categories



This dissertation investigates the economic consequences of urban sprawl for US minorities. Each essay focuses on a key empirical debate related to that relationship. The first essay establishes a set of attributes and empirical measures of sprawl based upon a comprehensive review of the literature. I define sprawl as a multi-faceted pattern of three land-use attributes: low density, deconcentration, and decentralization. I then resolve several methodological inconsistencies in the measurement of sprawl. Extensive analysis of spatial and economic data finds that metropolitan areas do not commonly exhibit high-sprawl (or low-sprawl) features across multiple measures. Instead, they often exhibit unique combinations of low-sprawl and high-sprawl attributes. The second essay examines the effect of sprawl on minority housing consumption gaps since the housing bust. I make two contributions to the literature. First, I reveal a facet of the relationship between sprawl and the Black-White housing gap not examined by previous econometric studies: Sprawl only contributes to reducing that gap once a metropolitan area reaches a critical threshold level of sprawl, typically at high levels of sprawl. Below a threshold, sprawl facilitates an expansion of the Black-White housing gap. Second, I compare results for Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics using recent data. For Blacks, the benefits from sprawl occur above an even higher threshold, as compared to preceding studies using 1990's data. For Asians, sprawl yields significant gains in housing consumption relative to Whites. As such, arguments that anti-sprawl policies reduce minority gains in housing should be treated with considerable skepticism in the post-Great Recession economy. The third essay explores the relationship between sprawl and racial and ethnic segregation. This econometric study advances the understanding of that relationship in two ways. First, I examine the effect of countervailing patterns of multiple land-use attributes, i.e. unique combinations of low-sprawl and high-sprawl attributes, on all five of the dimensions of segregation. Second, I compare outcomes for Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. The study analyzes the contribution and transmission of countervailing spatial patterns of land use to increasing (or decreasing) segregation. These complex effects bring new precision and insights to the analysis of racial and ethnic inequality in an age of rapid demographic change.


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Economics Commons