BETTER TOGETHER? POPULATION DENSITY AND WELL-BEING IN THE UNITED STATES
Halloran, Thomas Matthew
The United States core urban population areas are growing at a faster rate than fringe suburbs and satellite cities, a reversal from the previous five decades. 94% of all US population growth in the past five years was accounted for in 28 central metro counties. This trend is expected to continue, especially as key demographics such as young adults and baby boomers are more inclined to live in urban areas where amenities are within walking distance or transit accessible. This change in preference is complemented by the Great Recession and housing crash, which has left countless unfinished lots and developments in outer ring suburban and severely decreased homeownership, trends which are unlikely to reverse in the foreseeable future. This paper explores the relationship between population density and well-being in United States metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). It hypothesizes that higher population density has positive effects on social capital, innovation, culture, and overall economic growth - and working through these factors will lead to higher overall well-being. It uses an ordinary least squares regression for data from 2010 on 188 MSAs in the United States, and finds strong evidence of a positive association between population density and well-being. The results of this analysis provide policymakers with evidence to support the importance of sustainable development growth plans built on the understanding that density is a good thing, and that the city plays a key role in promoting well-being.
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