Fat City: Understanding American Urban Form from a Transatlantic Perspective

Pietro S. Nivola
Pietro Nivola
Pietro S. Nivola Former Brookings Expert

September 1, 1998

Urban Settlements grow in three directions: up into high-rise buildings, in by crowding, or out into the suburbs. Although cities everywhere have developed in each of these ways at various times, nowhere in Europe has the outward dispersal of people and jobs matched the scope of suburbanization in the metropolitan areas of the United States. Here, less than a quarter of the nation’s population lived in suburbia in 1950. Now more than 60 percent does. Why have most European cities remained compact compared with the sprawling American Metropolis?