Extract from an article by Haya El Nasser
Living in sprawling metropolitan areas hurts a poor child’s chances of moving up the economic ladder as an adult, according to new research published on Wednesday.
Despite the fact that urban sprawl has been linked to many social ills — obesity, shorter life spans and more car accidents — many U.S. metropolitan areas continue to spread out, the figures reveal.
Smart Growth America and the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Urban Center today released their second detailed sprawl ranking of metro areas and counties. Unlike an earlier 2002 report, this one factors in not just population density, transportation options and public health but also impact on income, life expectancy and housing and transportation costs.
One of the most striking findings is that living in more compact and connected metro areas can help low-income children get ahead financially as adults. “A child [in a low-sprawl area] born in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale has a better chance of rising to the top 20 percent of the income scale by the age of 30,” said Reid Ewing, a professor of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah and the lead researcher.
For example, the probability that an individual in the Baton Rouge, La., area — the sixth worst in terms of sprawl — will move from the bottom to the top income bracket is 7.2 percent, compared with 10.2 percent in Madison, Wis., the least sprawling among medium-size metro areas. “My explanation at this point is that a low-income person living in a very compact area has a much better access to jobs” and the city is “more likely to be well-integrated,” he said.
Research also shows that transportation costs are much higher in spread-out areas, especially those not linked by public transit. Evidence that sprawl equals poorer health is mounting, largely because living in an area that requires driving means less walking and more fast-food restaurants, Ewing said…(continues)
SOURCE: Haya El Nasser, “Study: suburban sprawl hurts social mobility”, Al Jazeera, 02 April 2014