Monday, March 31, 2008

Sprawl Improves Public Health

Will UCLA win the NCAA b-ball tournament? Nobody on the team took my winter class. I'd like to be the guy who advises 353 independent studies with the athletes and they all get As. (

Now, I'm not teaching and I must find something to do with my ample time. Perhaps some research and some blogging. I have been recovering from a bad cold and that's what I want to talk about. At dense UCLA, everybody was sneezing on each other the final week of classes and during exams week. This got me thinking. How much less disease contagion, exposure to second hand smoke, exposure to dog poop and other urban ills are avoided by the "moat effect" of living at lower density? Another urban disamenity is noise. My son is noisy and he bugs the neighbors with his stomping and yelling and jumping. In a single detached house with its own private space, nobody could hear him. Sprawl is type of voluntary quarantine.

While urban economists talk about the fact that suburbia relative to the center city offers larger homes and larger lots and newer houses and a more homogenous set of neighbors, and a better public services/tax ratio, perhaps what suburbanites really want is physical separation from other people's snot, smoke, noise and poop. This strikes me to be a hard bundling problem if you really wanted to disentangle all of these effects.

So, now that I'm not teaching and really not doing anything until January 2009 --- I will have plenty of time to think about such important matters.