Modeling the sociospatial constraints on Land-Use change: The case of periurban sprawl in the greater boston region

Stephen M. McCauley, John Rogan, James T. Murphy, Billie L. Turner, Samuel Ratick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Land-use-change drivers related to institutional dynamics, including historical path dependencies and political dynamics associated with urban land transformation, are difficult to relate to specific spatial locations and thus are not easily included in spatial models of urban land-use change. In this paper we describe a land-use model with variables representing such institutional dynamics in the Greater Boston region, a metropolitan area characterized by periurban sprawl, for the period 1985–99. An aggregate land-use model is developed at the municipal level, based on a narrative analysis drawn from in-depth interviews with town planners, state officials, and land developers, to explain land-development patterns documented over that study period using aerial photography. Explanatory variables, including town financial variables, school quality measures, and spatial variables associated with access and location, are linked to landchange outcomes through the selection environment framework, a framework borrowed from economic geography to describe how regional growth patterns are shaped by locally specific institutional, market, and spatial contexts that constrain individual land-use decision makers. Results of the analysis suggest that institutional dynamics associated with housing values and associated tax revenues, educational expenditures, and exclusive zoning practices significantly explain municipal land-use change in the suburban or periurban context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-241
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Planning and Design
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Land use
  • Metropolitan areas
  • Model calibration
  • Policy support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Architecture
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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