Sample Research Paper on Urban growth

The growth of industries that took place after the Civil War has been significant to changes of the cities in America to today. Cities have grown regarding size and populations as well. American had previously flocked in the suburbs to look for better lives, but today, it is America cities that attract younger workers because they provide better options for their careers and lifestyles. Urban areas are being clustered by talents. There is an advantage of living and working in in the cities. This is the global competitiveness the cities provide as they are positioned around urban areas and their nearness to amenities and opportunities. The suburbs, however, don’t seem to go away. Urban living is increasing, and most of it is occurring in suburbs as these places provide opportunities like real estate for commercial investors. Urban growth has mainly been Greenfield sprawl. That is, the farmland has been increasingly converted into housing and other lightly used tracks.

Historical background

After the industrial revolutions, cities became dangerous with the rise of crimes and they also became dirty. The term ‘inner cities’ took a negative notation. Reaction to this was shown by the statistics of 1960 census that showed urbanisation declining in the United States. For the first time population reduction was recorded since the pre-war in the hubs of cities including New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. In the preceding decades, cities had lost jobs and residents in large numbers. Busy neighborhoods saw the population reduce as workers moved to suburbs or the Sun Belt. The country continued to urbanize with the US cities led by Sun Belt powerhouse like Houston and Nashville adding residents exceeding 500,000.Because the birth rate of US declined in the late nineteenth century, the urban area grew from the internal migration of Americans from the farm and small towns to bigger cities and also overseas migration that accounted the growing population in the US oversees. Immigrants moved to sections that are poorer in the major cities, for example, the New York’s Lower East Side. They tended to live and work with people from their native country in search of a familiar living and surrounding. These areas got terribly overcrowded which contributed to poverty, crime, and disease. The immigration of non-English speaking people touched the Native born American. These immigrants were viewed as an undermining factor to the political system and also portrayed as dangerous. This led to calls for restriction of immigration in 1882.Mentally ill, paupers and convicts were denied from getting to America. The China Exclusion Act of 1882 also suspended immigration from China for ten years. This law was not revealed until 1943.

The crowding of large cities increased their value. The real estate cost was rising, and investors saw the need of maximizing the use of available space. Improved infrastructure helped improved the modern cities, and most importantly the focus of the security issued by city official improved safety. Trolleys and subway extended beyond the city limits (Hepinstall-Cymerman,Coe, and Hutyra, 2013). This was done due to the 1904 New York’s famed subway system. The first suburb was created which resulted in residential segregation of income. The immigrants and poor remained in the central city as middle class lived further away and commuted to job. Bridges also contributed to the expansion of cities.

Today, there is evidence of an urban era in America with rebounding of city populations across the country. The second urban growth has not looked much like the first growth as the only handful of American cities have added people to the areas that were developed in 1960.This has been attributed mainly by the urban cities severity and the selective nature of the growth since then. Factors that have contributed to the renewed interest of urban living include the need to deindustrialize the central cities, the changing lifestyle preferences and the shifting of demographics. Although cities tend to grow faster, they do not grow at the same rate. There is the need to understand why cities keep on growing and why some cities grow faster than others. These questions can be answered basing on various reasons. The first reason to study urban growth is the importance of population growth to the economy for example large investments in housing to accommodate the growing demography. In order to have better planning, it is important to understand why and how cities grow. The second reason is that urban economics have proposed theories to explain the population size and cities. A large literature has focused on the significance of location within the city and the impact of commuting cost, the availability of residential and how earning determine the size of the population. These theories guide us in conducting empirical work on the urban growth. The final reason for this study is, cities offer a good window to study economic growth.

Literature review

Several theorists have developed models and come up with findings that try to explain urban growth. Some of these theories have provided foundation for upcoming theorists and also helped understand how and why cities grow. Most theories explain the underlying causes for the growth of cities while others give a guide to understanding urban growth which is useful to planners and other relevant institutions. One of the studies focusing on urban growth was carried out by Duranton and Turner (2012) who estimated how the interstate highway impacted the growth of US cities between 1983 to 2003 and found out that a 105 increase in the cities highway led to 1.5% increase in employment during the period. This showed that the development of infrastructure contributed to urban growth. Sexton, J. O, Song, Huang et al. (2013) found out that cities and surrounding suburbs have the fasted growing land use. The study developed an empirical method for retrieving annual data from meth Landsat archive and applied to Washington, Baltimore and megalopolis from 1984 to 2010 and found out that the surface of the region grew from 881 to 1176 square kilometre with large variability among the local municipalities regarding the rate of development. The study concluded that the use of long-term records can provide new platforms for analyzing land use which can be used to understand the social and economic processes and human-environment interactions.

Most non-agricultural production in industrialized countries occurs in metropolitan areas. The reasons for the fast economic growth in the cities are the same reasons that make the cities the drivers of economic growth (Li, Campbell, and Fernandez, 2013).These reasons are the resultant effects of growth process strongly influenced by urbanization. Growth, therefore, influences urbanization which in turn in influences the growth process. Other urban scholars have recognized that transportation cost have been a determinant of the population growth and increasing city sizes. The research and findings of this paper will give the correct underlying causes and generally the key drivers of the growth of cities which will be useful to implementers, planners, and future theorists among other users.

Conceptual framework

In order to understand the underlying cause of urban growth including land use and transportation, we use simple monocentric urban model. We will then use the predictions of the model to structure our empirical literature on the cities. Using the central planetheory, we will be able to determine the relationship factors affecting urban population and cities. The assumption of the theory is that agglomeration economies make the economic activity of the city and the surrounding areas of the metropolitan to draw closer and surround the central business district. When activities grow closer to CBD, access to services and jobs becomes less costly which brings a higher price. As land supply increases, it compounds the price reducing effect due to the distance of amenities at the center. The prediction of decreasing land prices from the CBD is a prediction of reduction in residential populations from the center. These predictions have been captured by economic models by deriving a density gradient which predicts residential densities to decline as one nears CBD.

Using the monocentric model further away from the city means lend rents decline, lot size increase and population density falls. In the US, there is a good deal of spatial segregation by class. The rich tend to live in the suburbs while the poor in the central (Chandler and Fox, 2013).In order to explain these facts, we provide an understanding of individual behavior. Let’s denote the lot size as q .Let a single composite good be z.The city land prices (land rent), at a distance s from the CBD, is R(s).Agricultural land rent is RA, the cost of transport per round trip mile is k, and the composite good is available at price of 1 everywhere. All individual maximize prices. All people living in the city must commute to work in the CBD no matter where they live. Also individual can migrate in and out of the city at zero cost as this defines the monocentric city. The assumption is all people have same utility functions and income Therefore a person that commutes to work at CBD disposable income available is:

Y (s) =M- Ks.

This demonstrates the budget constraint with the difference in distance from the city. Letting R denote rent, as one moves closer to the city rent rate increases and vice versa. In a graph where the dependent variable is R and independent variable S.the slope would be:


The conclusion is, therefore, rent decreases with distance from the CBD.The lot size decreases as one nears the CBD.Considering the rich have a higher income than the poor, due to budget constraint the poor lives closer to the city as the distance is shorter hence commuting costs less, and also they can’t afford a higher bid for the land in the suburbs. The rich on the other hand lives in the suburbs. This study uses this model and predicts that the underlying cause of the growth of cities is determined by the growing economic activities and the resultant negative consequences of this growth push people to the suburbs. The rich have the ability to move to the suburbs while the poor have no choice but to remain in the cities as they can’t afford to commute from a distance and they also need to take advantage of opportunities in the cities.


This paper used quantitative research to collect data that would be used to analyze the urban growth. The statistics used were from the US Census Survey of the year 2015 and 2016.The data collected was the percentages of population growth, economic growth rate and the cost of land rates. This statistics were helpful in analyzing the effect of economic growth on urban population and growth of cities. These helped understand how and why cities grow. The study also obtained a list of cities that had fasted growth and what contributed to the growth.


The growth of infrastructure is one of the causes contributing to the urban growth. There have been 4,300 tech companies that have sprung up in Utah which have contributed to economic growth. This is the reason the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan statistical areas showed the economic growth of 6.93% in 2015.Given the cost of land for every square foot in the Salt Lake is $138% which is approximately 10% compared to that of New York City, companies have predicted that workers might consider relocating to the cheaper places. In the America, the fasted growing city has been contributed by the growth of infrastructure which makes cost of living cheaper.

California, Florida, North Carolina and Texas are the leading on the list. Austin, Texas has shown the highest growth of the cities. This is has been contributed by the booming technology, pharmaceuticals, and biotech industries. High numbers of people have been moving to Austin to take advantage of the job opportunities. According to the census figures in 2015, the population in the city of Austin grew by 2.9% in the year of 2014.The employment rate in 2015 increased by 3.28% and this year the projected population growth is 3.15%.About 80% of Utah’s population live in the Salt Lake City.

The US Census  Bureau released in May 2016 estimates showed that New York gained population by 55000 in the year that ended in July 2015.Its popularity is one of the significant features for this increase. Denver joined the list of the twenty most populous cities in the US replacing Detroit that moved from the 18 to 21 position. Most of the fastest growing cities are found in the south and west apart from Ankeny which is a suburb of Des Moines was estimated to have grown by 6.5% ranking third. Its population growth was recorded as   54,598 in 2014 while the  2015 estimates showed the population topped to 56,764.These statistics cover all the governmental units that are in the functioning process including, cities, towns, to division like townships and consolidated cities.

Urbanization in America is therefore seen to be precipitated by a variety of factors. These factors include first, the lower land rates. The low cost of land in the suburbs have motivated people to venture outside the city. Secondly is the improved structure including roads and electricity? Thirdly is the improved standards of living which make people to have the ability to pay more to travel to longer distances hence the rich can relocate to suburbs as the poor remain in the city centers where to be near to their jobs. The other factors include lack of urban planning, higher tax rates, and the rising population which are avoided by moving to suburbs. This trend of springing up of suburbs as people move their is the next major trend as American move from large cities to suburbs in search of cheaper housing, a stronger sense of community, lower tax rates and better security among other underlying factors.




Policy implications

The movement from the cities which has brought a divide between the rich and poor cannot be said to be a good sign. This is because the movement away from the city is to avoid uncertainties and only the rich have that ability. The government should implement policies that correct these issues in the cities and while encouraging the growth of suburbs to ensure the cities are moderated regarding costs and other conditions. They should work towards reducing crimes, traffic and other conditions of the city that make people want to move out.

Research limitations

One of the limitations of this is research is its small sample size. The data collected was only from various states of America and therefore cannot be applied to a wider coverage for example the world. The second limitation is unavailability of current statistics of all factors that would help analyse the growth in details. Most rates were predictions and rates for immigration were not included consistently with other rates. There is need to collects more data in details to enable a detailed analysis of each possible factor causing urban growth. It would even be more suitable to detect changes for example on monthly basis not to miss out on important issues relating to urban growth.


Urban growth has been and is an ongoing trend.Apart from the government, there are other factors that should be considered by interested parties like investors to ensure that this trend is a success. Macro trends are important for urbanization but urban investing is difficult and requires experience. In order to have a stronger projection of demand, stronger best growth, and liquidity, investors need to be selective in choosing potential developmental sites. Investors and developers should invest in places that have the potential to hold value in future. They should find areas that are expected to grow its populations.



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