More evidence that sprawl means more pollution

MLewyn's picture

Edward Glaeser of Harvard and Matt Kahn of UCLA have a new study out, showing that sprawling cities really do consume more energy and pollute more. Some of their conclusions:

"• Residents of older, denser cities such as New York and Boston
emit significantly less carbon dioxide than suburbanites in those
regions. The annual environmental emissions damage associated
with an average suburban home in greater Boston is about $200
more than the damage associated with an average home in the city
of Boston."

*"low-density development, particularly in the South, is associated with far more carbon dioxide emissions than higher density construction." This gap exists despite the fact that older, colder cities use more natural gas and home heating oil for heating.

*In particular, sprawl role model Houston is "the dirtiest among our 10 [biggest metropolitan] areas, but also among the five dirtiest overall."

The study is attached below, and is available online at:

I note that this study is especially persuasive coming from Glaeser and Kahn, who are not exactly card-carrying New Urbanists. In the past, they have generally supported the sprawl status quo. For example, in a 2003 paper, they wrote: "Sprawl has been associated with significant improvements in quality of living, and the environmental impacts of sprawl have been offset by technological change." (

glaeser.pdf408.93 KB


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