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Must the strip mall and the eight-lane highway define 21st century American life? That is a central question posed by critics of suburban and exurban living in America. Yet despite the ubiquity of the critique, it never sticks--Americans by the scores of millions have willingly moved into sprawling developments over the past few decades. Americans find many of the more substantial criticisms of sprawl easy to ignore because they often come across as snobbish in tone. Yet as Thad Williamson explains, sprawl does create real, measurable social problems. Williamson's work is unique in two important ways. First, while he highlights the deleterious effects of sprawl on civic life in America, he is also evenhanded. He does not dismiss the pastoral, homeowning ideal that is at the root of sprawl, and is sympathetic to the vast numbers of Americans who very clearly prefer it. Secondly, his critique is neither aesthetic nor moralistic in tone, but based on social science. Utilizing a landmark 30,000-person survey, he shows that sprawl fosters civic disengagement, accentuates inequality, and negatively impacts the environment. Sprawl, Justice, and Citizenship will not only be the most comprehensive work in print on the subject, it will be the first to offer a empirically rigorous critique of the most popular form of living in America today.



Publication Date



Oxford University Press


New York


suburban living, exurban living, America, sprawl, social problems, civic disengagement, inequality, environment


Jepson School of Leadership Studies


Leadership Studies | Urban Studies and Planning


Listen to Podcasts@Boatwright and hear Dr. Thad Williamson discuss Sprawl, Justice and Citizenship.

Read the introduction to the book by clicking the Download button above.

[Introduction to] Sprawl, justice, and citizenship : The Civic Costs of the American Way of Life