Ken Acks Presents Paper on “A Dynamic Analysis of the Costs and Benefits of a Smart Growth/Sprawl Reduction Program in 1988, 2008 and 2013" at the 2014 Annual Conference of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis

March 15th, 2014

The presentation was at the Location Based Analysis Panel of the Conference entitle: Benefit-Cost Analysis for Evidence-Based Decision Making which was held at the The Marvin Center at the George Washington University; 800 21st St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20052 from March 13th through March 14th, 2014.

More information about the conference including the agenda is available at

The abstract follows:
Sprawl can produce the following costs:
1) increased travel costs and time lost in travel;
2) increased tax burdens arising from road, utility and school construction and maintenance costs;
3) increased health care costs due to pollution and increased obesity from automobile-centered neighborhood designs and possibly stress from commuting;
4) Loss of productive agricultural and forestry land
5) Reduced availability of natural lands that support recreation, tourism and wildlife related activities
6) Endanger species
7) Decrease the economic vitality of urban centers;
However, most of the world's large cities are growing outward and it appears as if "sprawl" is preferred by many as a lifestyle. Most Americans have chosen to live in single detached homes and commute to work by automobile. Supporters of sprawl also argue that actual commuting times may be shorter due to sprawl, and sprawl separates residences from noxious uses, facilitates reduced prices for consumer goods by easing the development of Walmarts and other discounters, and enhances consumer choice by promoting competition between localities..
The critics of sprawl retort by pointing to distorted prices, such as automobile subsidies and mortgage interest deductions, and claimed but unregistered costs of sprawl.
Many, notably Leigh Gallagher in The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving have pointed to recent shifts towards cities that accelerated during the financial crisis.
This paper will analyze the costs and benefits of a program to support higher density walkable mixed-use development and discourage lower densities in 1988, in 2008 (before the Great Recession affected this area significantly) and in 2013 in New York’s Hudson Valley. The paper will estimate the benefits of the program at three points in time and evaluate changes over time arising from increased density, preference shifts, new information,and other factors.