Causes and Effects of Urban Sprawl

Urbanization refers to the migration of the population from rural regions to towns and cities. Man has always moved to newer places in search of better opportunities and amenities. Hence, migration is not a new phenomenon. Studies report of a steep rise in urbanization that came about in the late 19th and early 20th century. This sudden increase in urbanization can be attributed to the Industrial Revolution, which provided better economic opportunities in the cities, owing to the newly set up factories and industries.

As the cities and towns reap most of the benefits of innovations in the fields of science and technology, urbanization still continues to take place in them. As a result of this, the cities and its suburbs spill over to the rural areas along their boundaries. This spread is termed as urban sprawl. In the following Buzzle article, we will study the causes, effects, and consequences of urban sprawl and what it signifies.

Causes

The following are the main causes of urban sprawl.
Cheaper land and housing costs in the suburbs as compared to urban centers has lured many to settle in these areas.
There has been an increase in public spending for the development of infrastructure like roads, water, and electricity in the suburbs than in existing urban centers, thus adding benefits to life in sprawls.
There has been an increase in commercial lending practices that favor suburban development.
Increase in family income of an average American has raised his standard of living. Owning a car and paying for gas to transit from the suburb to the city is affordable for many Americans.
Sprawls are characterized by low density populations and less traffic congestion. Therefore, even in the absence of any federal policies that would encourage growth of sprawls, these centers have proliferated due to the willingness of a growing number of people to live in sprawls, where they find life more calm and peaceful than in the cities.
Higher property and business taxes in the cities have pushed businesses to the suburbs where taxes are generally low.

Effects

The following are the main effects of urban sprawl.
Sprawls have been criticized for increasing public costs. Some view sprawls as a venue where public money is being spent on redundant infrastructure outside the urban areas at the cost of neglecting the infrastructure in the cities that is either not utilized or underutilized.
People living in urban sprawls commute to cities in their automobiles. This has resulted in heavier traffic on the roads, leading to traffic congestion, increase in air pollution, and automobile-related accidents.
Increasing dependence on automobiles has led the sprawl population to use their vehicles even for short distances. Such practices have, no doubt, led to an increase in obesity and hypertension in the population living in sprawls than those in the cities.
Sprawls have triggered concerns over environmental issues as well. Houses in sprawls are larger than those in urban centers. This is viewed, by some, as a waste of cultivable land and displacement of wildlife. Since large areas of land are covered with impervious material, such as concrete, there is lesser percolation of rainwater into the groundwater.
Sprawls are believed to cause disintegration in the social capital of America. Houses in the sprawls are more spacious than those in the city and usually come with large backyards―this set up tends to separate neighbors. Hence, social interactions among neighbors is lesser in these regions than in the cities.
People residing in sprawls depend heavily on automobiles to commute to the main city, thus, city planners are compelled to spend more money on building larger highways and parking spaces. This is considered as an additional burden on the state treasury because this reduces the area of taxable land.
Despite widespread anti-sprawl sentiments, urban sprawls have their own benefits. With a considerable portion of the population preferring to live in sprawls, houses have become more affordable in cities. Reduced housing costs in sprawls is believed to have provided minorities and recent immigrants better housing opportunities as well.

Urban sprawl is the later stage of urbanization and is an inevitable phenomenon. Just like every other process, urban sprawls have their own pros and cons. However, the negative effects of urban sprawls can be neutralized by monitoring their growth in a planned manner, such that they are not a liability, either to the society, economy, or the environment.

The Digital Divide

The digital divide is the gap in access to technology between individuals, businesses, households, and geographic areas due to socioeconomic status. This digital divide can be due to one household having less money than another and, therefore, not being able to buy all the new gadgets on the market that some other families may be able to afford. It can also be due to an area of the country or the world that doesn’t have the same access to the Internet as another.

In many countries, Internet is unreliable and that leaves the user without the same access to information and conversation tools as people in other parts of the world. There are also some countries that censor the Internet for civilians for political reasons, and this can lead to a further digital divide. When discussing different levels of access of the Internet between countries, this is actually called the global divide. The term “digital divide” first came into use in the 1990s’ and was first used to refer to the different levels of access to computers between different ethnic groups in the United States of America. By 1998, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration was using the term as a title of a survey. The quick launch of these terms into the public sphere draws attention to the fact that this is a huge problem in our country and the world. These different digital divides can have serious implications on people and cause gaps in earnings, education, and much more.

Gaps in Earnings

In a world and an economy that is becoming more global by the second, computer skills are a must have. It is difficult to find a job that does not require computer skills in today’s society. Whether requiring you to type, research, email, read, or perform more complicated tasks, almost everything revolves around computers and new software.

If you have not grown up with a computer and if you do not have access to a computer at home, you are at a serious disadvantage to someone who has been working with computers his or her whole life. No amount of computer training can make up for just being able to have access to a computer and learning how to use it naturally and intuitively. In this sense, it can be extremely difficult to climb the workplace ladder when you do not have the same skill set as someone else in the company. The digital divide, in this way, can cause a serious gap in earnings between someone who has a computer and someone who does not. Also, many companies are putting their job applications and postings online, so without a computer or access to the Internet, one cannot research or apply for high paying jobs.

Gaps in Education

Students and schools who have access to computers can learn more information in a few seconds than someone without a computer. Because of rapid Internet access, students are able to find whatever information they need in a very short amount of time. This not only changes the teaching atmosphere, but also further separates the haves and have-nots. When one student can find information at the speed of light and another cannot, the student without access to technology is starting at a lower level of information than the student with the access. There is nothing a teacher can do to level that playing field.

Sure, the same information is out there in books and other hard copy sources, but the time a student spends finding that information is valuable. When one student is afforded the opportunity to spend less time on an assignment because he or she has access to the Internet, it frees up time for other opportunities like work and socialization.