Rural Sprawl

While the major emphasis in recent years has been on urban sprawl (the change in relative density of cities as compared to their suburbs), we should also consider what might be called rural sprawl. We define rural sprawl as a change in relative density preference between suburbs and rural areas. If sprawl is consuming our nation's farmland, it is probably rural sprawl rather than urban sprawl. The majority of farmland is located in rural areas. However, the definition of "rural" is imprecise. 73

We currently have conflicting evidence about rural sprawl. In many rural areas, population has been declining as residents move to urban areas to find jobs. In others, population has been exploding as farmland is plowed up to create new suburban residential and commercial areas.

Rigorous analysis of rural sprawl will help us determine whether there really is a crisis in farmland, and if so, where it is occurring.

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