News & Resources

Sprawl Research: Smart Growth Makes Us Healthier and Wealthier

Yesterday, our friends at Smart Growth America released a report called Measuring Sprawl 2014 that ranks the most sprawling and most compact areas of the country.

Here are a few of the most interesting findings:

People in compact, connected areas have longer, healthier, safer lives. Life expectancy is greater in compact, connected areas, and driving rates (and their associated risk of a fatal collision), body mass index, air quality and violent crime all contribute to this difference.

People in compact, connected areas have greater upward economic mobility than their peers in sprawling areas. That is, a child born in the bottom 20% of the income scale has a better chance of rising to the top 20% of the income scale by age 30.

People in compact, connected metro areas spend less on the combined expenses of housing and transportation. Housing costs are higher in compact, connected areas, but these higher costs are more than offset by lower transportation costs. People in compact, connected metro areas also have more transportation options. People in these areas tend to walk more, take transit more, own fewer cars and spend less time driving than their peers in sprawling areas.

This is why the Alliance tackles difficult issues like zoning, which is the blueprint for either livability or sprawl in our cities and towns. And brownfields, so we can grow from within our communities rather than sprawl outward. (Take a moment and a few clicks to help us win.)

One more note. If you look at the data, you’ll notice some strange things, like:

  • Why is Washington, DC ranked 91st while Miami is 8th and Detroit 12th? And
  • Where the heck is Boston and Massachusetts? (You won’t find them!)

You’ll have to wait till tomorrow to get the answers to those questions. It will make sense. Trust me.

Andre Leroux
Executive Director, MA Smart Growth Alliance