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The Influence of Local Fiscal Structure and Growth Control Choices on “Big Box” Urban Sprawl in the American West

Robert W. Wassmer

January 2002, English

Is the amount of total retail sales and two forms of “big box” retail (auto and home improvement) sales that occur outside of a western United States metropolitan area’s central place(s) influenced by the ways that local governments raise own-source revenue and/or growth controls? This paper offers an answer to this timely policy question through a regression analysis that accounts for other economic factors that naturally cause retail activity to locate in non-central places. Results indicate that statewide reliance by local governments on some forms of own-source revenue exert significant positive influences on overall retail sales, and even greater positive influences on two forms of big box retail sales occurring in non-central places. Certain forms of urban growth boundaries are also found to reduce aggregate retail decentralization in the American West and exert an even greater negative influence on the decentralization of auto sales.


Economic Development, Economics, Growth Controls, Local Government, Urban Sprawl