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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Environmental Consequences of Sprawl


In 1950, the US population was just over 152 million. Today, the population exceeds 298 million. Growth has not been even; much of it has occurred in the West and South. Although every state grew in population between 1950 and 2004, just three states – California, Texas, and Florida – accounted for 30% of the population growth (Table 1). Furthermore, these three states, which together represent 14% of the US land area, are projected to account for half of the total US population growth over the next twenty years. Yet the New York metropolitan area, with a population of over 20 million, is the largest metropolitan area in the US and one of the largest in the world; the population of the New England and Middle Atlantic States made up 21% of the US total, though the eleven states account for only five percent of the land area.

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