HKS Authors

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The United States is a suburban nation. Though sizable populations live in urban areas, the trend over the last several decades in the U.S. has been toward increasing suburbanization. Normative views on this trend, though passionate, are varied, and the evidence is often interpreted in light of the advocates’ values. Urbanists refer to an ever-rising tide of new urbanites moving back to the central city. Libertarians and free market enthusiasts conversely claim that the public has long voted with its feet to live in areas with less noise and less congestion. Fierce debates continue to rage about the role of federal policies and subsidies - such as for highways, urban transit, and home ownership - in driving the location choices of households. We argue that current land use in the U.S. is the result of households locating where they can secure the greatest personal benefit given their budget constraints. But households do not make their decisions in a vacuum. Economic and political contexts loom large as influences on these decisions.


Alan M. Berger, Casey L. Brown, Carolyn Kousky, Ken Laberteaux, and Richard Zeckhauser. "Where Americans Live: A Geographic and Environmental Tally." Harvard Journal of Real Estate: Navigating Investments with Ethical Risk (2013): 38-48.