Study: Density Can Impede Growth

Size and growth go hand in hand, until they don't, according to a new analysis. Density might be the reason that synergy eventually shortcircuits.

1 minute read

March 18, 2019, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


New York City

pisaphotography / Shutterstock

Richard Florida shares insights about a new study by Jordan Rappaport of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City examining the size and density of metropolitan areas for lessons in growth.

On one hand, size (in terms of population and employment) is a huge advantage. Bigger places inexorably grow bigger. And this is especially true for relatively large cities (up to 500,000 people) with plenty of space to grow. For these places, their initially large populations beget faster growth over time.

But, on the other hand, density cuts the other way and can slow growth for very large places. This would seem to be at odds with urban theories from Jane Jacobs and others, that view density and clustering as an essential spur to innovation. But Rappaport finds that density generates diseconomies like traffic congestion or expensive housing costs, which limit growth.

To produce these findings, Rappaport examined job and population data for "more than 2,000 American communities, including more than 350 metropolitan areas, 554 micropolitan areas, and 1,300 “non-core” counties," explains Florida. Florida supplements the article with infographics pulled to further illustrate the points made in the study.

Friday, March 15, 2019 in CityLab

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

View of 110 freeway with downtown Los Angeles buildings in background.

LA Freeway Ramp ‘Quietly Canceled’

A 2018 lawsuit forced Metro and Caltrans to do full environmental reviews of the project, leading to its cancellation.

February 29 - Streetsblog LA

Street view of 4th Avenue, a commercial street of shops and restaurants through the city center of downtown Seattle, Washington.

Study: Seattle Vision Zero Projects Not Bad for Business

An analysis of seven road safety project sites showed no negative economic impact on surrounding businesses.

February 29 - UW News

Black-and-white photo of street with old black model T and brick building on the corner.

The History of Racial Zoning and Housing Discrimination in the US

More than a century of discriminatory housing policy divided cities and contributed to the racial wealth gap and other social and economic inequities.

February 29 - Urban Land Magazine

Senior Planner

Heyer Gruel Associates

Regional Transportation Planner

Crater Planning District Commission

Senior Planner- Long range

Prince William County Planning Office

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.