Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Highway System Drives City Population Declines, Says Brown Economist

Date:
June 14, 2007
Source:
Brown University
Summary:
Examining the phenomenon of suburbanization in America, researchers the extent to which the construction of new highways contributed to population declines in cities. He estimates that each new highway passing through a city reduces its population by about 18 percent, making the national road network a major impetus for suburbanization and sprawl of US cities.

Construction of the American highway system in the late 20th century played a key role in causing population declines in central cities, according to new research.
Credit: Image courtesy of Brown University

Examining the phenomenon of suburbanization in America, Brown University economist Nathaniel Baum-Snow shows the extent to which the construction of new highways contributed to population declines in cities. He estimates that each new highway passing through a city reduces its population by about 18 percent, making the national road network a major impetus for suburbanization and sprawl of U.S. cities.

Related Articles


Construction of the American highway system in the late 20th century played a key role in causing population declines in central cities, according to new research by Brown University economist Nathaniel Baum-Snow.

While past studies have posited various explanations for suburbanization, such as improved telecommunications technology, city school desegregation, housing project construction, rising crime rates, and faster commuting options, Baum-Snow’s paper is the first to empirically account for the relative importance of transportation improvements in causing city population declines in the United States since World War II.

Using unique data, Baum-Snow demonstrates that one new highway passing through a central city reduces its population by about 18 percent. Furthermore, he asserts that rather than the observed decline of 17 percent, the nation’s city populations would have grown by about 8 percent overall had the interstate highway system not been built.

“The Federal Highway Act of 1944 stipulated that highways should be built primarily to serve the national defense – so, suburbanization was essentially an unintended consequence,” Baum-Snow said. “Without the more than 40 thousand miles of interstate roads built by 1990, urban decentralization would have probably still taken place, but the population shift would not have been nearly as sizable.”

To compare rates of suburbanization in metropolitan areas that received many new highways between 1950 and 1990 to those receiving fewer during the same period, Baum-Snow created a unique data set. Using data on 139 large metropolitan areas and information from a 1947 plan of the highway system, he measured the highways as “rays” emanating from central cities – a “ray” is defined as a segment of road that connects the central business district of the central city with the region outside the central city.

“The estimates put forth in this paper are certainly relevant and applicable to current transportation infrastructure planning in urban areas in developing countries including China and India,” said Baum-Snow. “Urban transportation planners should consider that building a highway system through urban areas has the potential to dramatically change where people choose to live and how much land is developed.”

These findings are published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brown University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Brown University. "Highway System Drives City Population Declines, Says Brown Economist." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070613094236.htm>.
Brown University. (2007, June 14). Highway System Drives City Population Declines, Says Brown Economist. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070613094236.htm
Brown University. "Highway System Drives City Population Declines, Says Brown Economist." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070613094236.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Uphill Battle to Tackle Indonesian Shark Fishing

Uphill Battle to Tackle Indonesian Shark Fishing

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Sharks are hauled ashore every day at a busy market on the central Indonesian island of Lombok, the hub of a booming trade that provides a livelihood for local fishermen but is increasingly alarming environmentalists. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
France's Sauternes Wine Threatened by New Train Line

France's Sauternes Wine Threatened by New Train Line

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) Winemakers in southwestern France's Bordeaux are concerned about a proposed high speed train line that could affect the microclimate required for the region's sweet wine. Duration: 01:06 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
2016 Olympic Waters Feature 'Super Bacteria' Researchers Say

2016 Olympic Waters Feature 'Super Bacteria' Researchers Say

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) Researchers found the bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase in the water where the 2016 Olympics is supposed to take place. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins