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New Study: Suburban Sprawl Bad For Health And Wealth

houses in a row
U.S. Department of Transportation

A new study conducted by Utah researchers shows the benefits of living in urban areas instead of suburban neighborhoods. The study, led by University of Utah Metropolitan Research Center Director Reid Ewing, shows people who live in urban areas spend less onhousing and transportation costs, tend to be healthier, and have greater economic opportunity.

Ewing says the state will need to make a decision about future growth, either toward suburban sprawl or more condensed living.

“What we’re talking about is not everyone living necessarily in cities, in fact it looks like in the Wasatch Front the majority of people prefer suburban living, but it doesn’t have to be sprawl. It can be a mixed use pattern, it can be walkable, it can have more urban places within a lower density development,” Ewing said.

Though housing costs can be higher in urban areas, the decreased cost of transportation leads to net savings for urban dwellers. Less driving is also thought to be connected to lower obesity rates in these areas.

Ewing says sprawl will continue in Utah as long as money is directed toward building additional roads, instead of other urban-friendly transportation projects. Even so, he says the state’s transportation goals are going in the right direction.

“We’re trying to educate policy makers so that they can understand that there are costs associated with sprawl, and the costs are just very widespread,” Ewing said.

Ewing started his research on urban living in the early 2000s, when most of the theories on urban living were backed by qualitative instead of quantitative information. He hopes these latest measures will be used by other researchers to better understand the intricacies of city planning.