Riding the Wave of Urban Growth in the Countryside: Spread, Backwash, or Stagnation?

Mark Partridge, Ray D. Bollman, M. Rose Olfert and Alessandro Alasia


The advisability of an urban-centered growth strategy to reap the benefits of urban agglomeration economies is much debated. Rural areas benefit when the growth “spreads” to the hinterlands, especially within daily commuting distance. Yet, in distant-peripheral locations, urban growth may create a “backwash” as households relocate to the urban center. This study examines spread vs. backwash, as separate from long-run, distance-from-urban-center trend effects, using a novel Canadian GIS database. The unique nation-wide approach yields a spread and backwash rural-growth topography that varies by distance from the urban center, by urban population vs. income growth, and by size of rural community. (JEL R11, R14)

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