Sprawl does lower the concentration of people, and because of that, it often increases the safety of neighborhoods. Traffic is often less thick, housing prices are lower, and many people prefer it to urban living.
Some supporters of sprawl have also cited school quality and noise reduction as other incentives to low density development/sprawl. Many Americans prefer the idea of low density development to urban living because of the image that has been painted of living the “American Dream”. Downsides of sprawl include various health and environmental impacts including increased pollution levels, increased obesity levels, increased transportation costs, and more.
Urban sprawl does seem to provide an increase in short-term job opportunties. The contruction industry supported by continual growth of suburban developments provides a wide range of well paying jobs that range from cabinet makers to foresters.
It’s important not to confuse ‘sprawl’ with ‘suburb,’ since the two aren’t necessarily the same. As Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: A Compact History acknowledges, the generic (but most popular) definition of ‘sprawl’ dates to the late 1960s when America’s central cities were experiencing rapid decline, so our current notions of sprawl are, in large part, enmeshed in a tone of liberal, progressive advocacy which, while not necessarily bad, somewhat obscures our analysis. Generally, when people talk about sprawl they imagine a chaotic, concrete-tentacled geographic beast that bleeds big-gulp sodas and is dressed in the faux-repressive uniform of a mini-mall security guard. But, in fact, Manhattan’s Lower East Side, with its exodus of New Yorkers moving steadily outside of the city’s core (about as fundamental a definition of sprawl as you’re likely to get), might qualify as sprawl as well as any far-flung suburb. Thus, when conducting a cost-benefit analysis of the sociological reality of sprawl, it’s important to keep the ambiguous and half-formed nature of the concept in mind; in short, to answer your question, I’ll just rephrase it. You asked: “Is sprawl good for anything?” I ask: “Are cities?” More specifically, “Is Lower Manhattan?”
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