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The International Sprawl Tax

Compared with European averages, U.S. and Canadian residents spend 30-50 percent more money and time on transport due to dispersed, automobile-dependent development.
June 8, 2016, 2pm PDT | Todd Litman
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Saucy Salad (Rebecca Wilson)

According to data published by economists Stephen Redding and Matthew Turnerthe average American household spent approximately 18 percent of its budget on transportation compared with just an average of 12.8 percent among its peer. That means a typical U.S. household spent about five percentage points more of its income, about $1,500 annually, on transportation than the residents of other developed countries.

Table courtesy of City Observatory.

Similarly, the average American worker spent about 51 daily minutes commuting, compared with 39 average daily commute minutes for all other countries. This means that over the course of a year with 250 working days, the typical American commuter spends about 51 more hours commuting than workers in other high income countries. Valued at $15 per hour, the additional cost of commuting to US workers comes to $770 per worker worker per year.

While there may be other reasons for these disparities, they probably reflect American cities' more sprawled, automobile-dependent development patterns.

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Published on Wednesday, June 8, 2016 in City Observatory
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