TitleCan Urban Planning Reduce Obesity? The Role of Self-Selection in Explaining the Link between Weight and Urban Sprawl
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsPlantinga, AJ, Bernell, S
JournalReview of Agricultural Economics
Pagination557 - 563
Date Published09/2007

In the United States, obesity has risen at an epidemic rate during the past 20 years (Flegal et al.). Recent studies by urban planning and public health researchers find that development patterns associated with urban sprawl are a significant determinant of obesity rates in the U.S. population (Ewing et al.; Frank, Andresen, and Schmid; Lopez). Several explanations are offered. First, poor connectivity in street networks and low-density and single-use development increase trip distances and reduce physical activity by making walking and bicycling impractical and unsafe. Second, low-density development reduces the viability of public transportation. As a result, people must commute to and from work by automobile, which can lead to traffic congestion and the diversion of time from activities such as exercising. Third, modern suburban developments do not adequately provide facilities such as parks that permit and encourage physical activity.