Journal of Comparative Urban Law and Policy


Urban sprawl is a catch-all term and a scapegoat for everything that is bad about urban growth today, such as congestion, blight, monotony, and ecological destruction. In recent decades, sprawl might have attenuated as America experienced a period of urban revival even as technology made working from home (WFH) and shopping from home possible nearly anywhere. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of infrastructures and forced firms to rethink the necessity of workplaces. Retailers have accelerated the pace of online sales and home deliveries by years if not decades. These and other advances have decoupled people from their workplaces, shopping and other activities usually associated with density. Indeed, the sudden spurning of urban density attributable to the pandemic raises fundamental questions for the future of cities. While the pandemic has accelerated trends in people moving out of denser neighborhoods in metropolitan areas in favor of smaller metros, suburban, and exurban locations, the major shift in net migration is from a drop in people moving into central cities. This paper contextualizes pandemic era migration literature with prior studies of urban sprawl to derive a useful framework for planners, developers, and decision-makers to better understand how cities expand and to predict the lasting impacts that COVID-19 will leave on U.S. cities.

First Page


Last Page