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Economic Quarterly

Fall 2007

The Evolution of City Population Density in the United States

Kevin A. Bryan, Brian D. Minton and Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte

We compile a database of American city population densities from 1940 to 2000, which was not previously available publicly in an electronic format. Using this data set, we investigate trends in urban density patterns. Nonparametric estimates of urban density distributions suggest a distinct, steady trend toward less dense cities. This is evident across a number of different city definitions, and is robust across geographical regions and city age.

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