"Smart Growth" and "New Urbanism" Compared with "Large Lot Zoning" (Tom Lane) [ Home Page – Click Here]

(May 17, 2017) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2017 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

Census Maps Show Population Exodus to Rural and Exurban Counnties

(Updated Oct. 23, 2010) Map Credit Above: Classifications of Counties as Urban, Exurban, or Rural. In: The Daily Yonder, http://tiny.cc/v4asw, 3/17/2009, Accessed August 10, 2010.

*For a High Resolution Image of this Counties Map, Click Here.


Note: I am expanding material on rural population growth.  Please see these three additional posts:

1. Baby boomers are migrating to rural areas in record numbers; see this post for the recent study from Drs. John Cromantie and Peter Nelson of the USDA:


2. For information on the BLS Salary data for all metro areas nationwide, including the creative class, check the BLS / Richard Florida info at this post:


3. US Census data shows that Americans are willing to drive 2 hours to work for large lots, natural amenities, less crime, and better schools.  This info is combined with a new post on Richard Whitman’s smart growth / climate change agenda for Oregon:



Major cities have become expensive due to urban growth boundaries, impact fees, and other smart growth principles.  Americans prefer owning large lots with close proximity to natural amenities, even if this means a long commute to the City.

Over the last two decades, migration to rural and exurban counties has been phenomenal. If you’re an expert at deciphering county boundaries (click any map below to enlarge), you’ll note rapid growth in places such as Bend (OR), Durango (CO), Auburn (CA), Flagstaff (AZ), and Pinal County (AZ), near Phoenix. Here are a few maps:

Bill Bishop in the Daily Yonder shows the tremendous increase in housing units since 2000 in rural and exurban counties.  His article (at this link) includes an Excel table, with US Census data with housing unit growth for every US county, classified as urban, exurban, or rural.  The map below shows exurban and rural counties only:


Housing Unit Growth in Rural and Exurban Counties, 2000-2008. From: "New Housing Increases Fastest in the Exurbs," by Bill Bishop in The Daily Yonder, http://tiny.cc/8wldk Accessed August 10, 2010.

The city to rural migration trend also occurred in the 1990’s, as shown by USDA Researcher David A. McGranahan, in his paper entitled “Landscape Influence on Recent Rural Migration in the U.S.”

1990's Population Growth in Rural and Exurban Counties. From: "Landscape Influence on Recent Rural Migration in the U.S." by David McGranahan. In: Landscape and Urban Planning 85 (2008) 228–240. http://tiny.cc/djw9y Accessed August 10, 2010.

Bill Bishop writing in New West Development provides another map of areas with the highest natural amenities, where baby boomers will retire in the next 20 years:

Natural Amenities Nationwide from Bill Bishop, "Boomers Migrating to Rural America" In: New West Development, 8/19/09, http://tiny.cc/f6vcf, Accessed August 10, 2010.

However, the younger, employed, Creative Class also migrate to Creative Class counties, as Timothy Wojan and David McGranahan explain in their article. This presents a problem for smart growth advocates, who are trying to keep young people in cities, and farmers outside urban growth boundaries.

It’s not going to work, since rapid growth to rural and exurban counties includes young people in search of artistic venues and natural amenities.  Bohemians (i.e. artists, mountain bikers, musicians, organic farmers, skiers, snowboarders, etc.) prefer either urban and rural environments, depending on their interests.

Today, young people realize that cities have been corrupted by decades of high taxes and foreclosures.  Rural areas not only offer more fun, but also a better economic future with a lower cost of living.

On this map, Wojan and McGranahan show Creative Class counties, both urban and rural, nationwide:

The authors also show county rankings for Bohemian scores (1990), based on their own estimates.  Due to problems with the *PDF, please see the article for the legend: http://joeg.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/6/711.full.pdf?keytype=ref&ijkey=tN8VlucPsqh5pfH

County rankings for Bohemian Scores. From: Tim Wojan and David McGranahan: "Emoting with their Feet: Bohemian Attraction to Creative Milieu." Journal of Economic Geography, http://joeg.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/6/711.full.pdf?keytype=ref&ijkey=tN8VlucPsqh5pfH, Accessed August 12, 2010.

And, they show rural artistic havens (urban areas not included):

Rural Artistic Havens, 2000. From: The Emergence of Rural Artistic Havens, A First Look, by Timothy Wojan, Dayton Lambert, and David McGranahan. http://tiny.cc/gr4ku, Accessed August 10, 2010.


Smart growth proponents who believe in global warming face a significant challenge – SUV’s driving 40 miles to work – each way.  As a result, the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) has suggested that mortgage brokers charge more for those who have longer commutes.

However, this program would have limited success, since smart growth proponents establish urban growth boundaries.  This results in “leapfrogging” (of commuters) over undeveloped land from suburb to suburb, longer commute times, and increased gasoline consumption.

Dr. Richard Merrill, Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Washington has addressed leapfrogging. He provides this map showing that growth management policies in King County (Seattle’s county) has diverted growth to surrounding counties.  This results in longer commutes from the suburbs.  Similar situations occurs in other West Coast markets with urban growth boundaries, such as Portland and San Francisco.  Here is Dr. Merrill’s map of population growth in Washington State counties:

In terms of where young people will prosper, they are best served in rural areas in the Upper Midwest, Rockies, and Great Plains, as shown by the following maps. First, here’s a look at unemployment in rural and exurban counties, as of late 2009:

Rural and Exurban Unemployment Nationwide. From: The Daily Yonder, http://tiny.cc/v3y0k, Accessed August 10, 2010.

Bill Bishop provides another map of poverty rates in rural counties, for 2008.

Everyone wants to move to a mountain/tourist town and tellecommute, but beware!  They’re not all managed in such a way to maximize personal prosperity!

For example, the map shows Bend’s county, Deschusets, and Durango’s, La Plata, at between 3 and 12% poverty, among the lowest in the West.

Compare THAT to 14% to 54% in the rest of Arizona, New Mexico, and Oregon.

Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and NE Nevada have low poverty rates.

Flagstaff’s county, Coconino, two hours north of Phoenix, is well above the national average (13%), with 14% to 20% in poverty.  Northern California and Southern Oregon have similar high rates.

However, much of Colorado, incliuding the ski resort counties, are below the national average.  Ski resort counties in California also look good.  First impressions mean something, and there was no question that Durango seemed “richer” when I drove through there a year ago.

Indeed, Bill  Bishop says:

“The rural counties with the lowest poverty rates (dark green on the map) are found mostly in the Mountain West — ski and resort counties like Teton (Jackson Hole) in Wyoming (4.4%), Routt (Steamboat Springs) in Colorado (4.7%) and Pitkin (Aspen) in Colorado (5%). Energy producing counties in Wyoming (such as Sublette, Sweetwater and Campbell) also had very low poverty rates.e through the place over a year ago.”

I’m not bashing the poor, in fact, I am poor. I’m bashing the City Councils, City Managers, and Planning Commissions.  The “good old boys club” in places like Flagstaff just isn’t good for the locals, and rates of philantropy in these types of towns tend to be low, contributing to the problem.

The cost of living in Flagstaff is much higher than Santa Fe, and the highest in all of Arizona.  So, to be fair, the City could index the State minimum wage to inflation. By now, with Flagstaff at over 100% of the National Cost of Living Index, it would be probably $9.50 an hour.  And then, Flagstaff would have a lower poverty rate score on this map:


Poverty Rate in Rural Counties, from Bill Bishop, The Daily Yonder, http://tiny.cc/zgzfu, Accessed August 17, 2010.



Additional maps for poverty and other demographic factors can be found at this link from the Kaiser Family Foundation:


And, here’s an even more frightening map for Democrats, showing that rural, Republican counties score better on measures of lower poverty rates, lower unemployment rates, lower high school drop out rates, and lower housing problems.

Full Article for this map at:

Prosperity in American Counties. From: http://tiny.cc/o0egy, Accessed: August 15, 2010.

” Much of rural America is prosperous, says a study that used specific criteria to evaluate community success.

To qualify as prosperous, U.S. counties had to have lower poverty levels, unemployment rates, high school drop outs and housing problems than the nation as a whole.

Here, a map showing the prosperity of U.S. counties. Counties that do better than the nation on all four criteria are colored red.

Those that do better on three criteria are red-orange, two criteria are orange, one criteria is yellow and none is white.

The findings of the article were contrary to the theory that the Creative Class propels growth in urban areas, as underlined below. The article states:

“For many people “rural” is synonymous with low incomes, limited economic opportunity, and poor schools. However, a recent study found that much of rural America is actually prosperous, particularly in the Midwest and Plains.

Researchers just had to look at things differently to see the prosperity.

The study — announced today and based on date from the year 2000 — analyzed unemployment rates, poverty rates, high school drop-out rates, and housing conditions to identify prospering communities. The result: One in five rural counties in the United States is prosperous, doing better than the nation as a whole on all these measures.

The study did not define community success in terms of the traditional measures of growth in population, employment and income, according to Andrew Isserman, an economist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author of the paper. Instead, it focused on outcomes: Do communities keep their kids in school? Are their unemployment and poverty rates low? Are housing conditions good and the folks healthy?

“When we started our research, people wondered whether we would find any prosperous rural communities at all using those criteria. But more than 300 of the nation’s rural counties did better than the nation,” Isserman said.

Counties in America’s Heartland — Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa and parts of six adjacent states — came out on top with half the rural counties prospering. In the Southeast and Southwest, fewer than one in twenty rural counties prosper. (You can see all counties on this map.)

Prosperous rural counties have more off-farm jobs, more educated populations, and less income inequality than other rural counties.

The prosperous rural counties in 2000 averaged 2 percent population growth over the previous decade. The worst-off counties, which met no prosperity criteria, averaged five times the growth at 11 percent, yet had much lower incomes.

“This finding supports our view that growth and prosperity are different dimensions, and much can be learned from studying rural prosperity,” Isserman said.

Having analyzed the data on 1,300 rural counties, the research team is studying communities up close to learn the story behind the statistical results. “We want to figure out how and why these places prosper in order to help other rural places do well, too,” Isserman said.

Since the study used data from the year 2000, the findings do not reflect the country’s recent months of financial turmoil.

(The study was published in the July issue of the journal International Regional Science Review.

And, Bill shows job growth from 2007 to 2009 in every county.  For more information, check out Bill Bishop writing in “Reimagine Rural.”


The blurry pdf file may or may not be correctable on your web browser. Try clicking to enlarge:

Dec. 2007 to Oct. 2009 Job Growth or Loss, all rural and exurban counties nationwide, Bill Bishop, http://reimaginerural.com/tag/job-creation/, Accessed August 12, 2010.


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