Population and Environment

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 47–68 | Cite as

The asymmetric environmental consequences of population change: an exploratory county-level study of land development in the USA, 2001-2011



In this exploratory study, we decompose population growth and decline into their constituent elements to examine how demographic change drives environmental change. Using the example of land development, the analysis integrates county-level measures of births, deaths, in-migration, and out-migration with data on built-up land area from the National Land Cover Database for the years 2001–2006 and then 2006–2011. Drawing from human ecology and environmental demography, we hypothesize that the components of population change will have asymmetric impacts on the construction of the built environment as a form of land development. Results from spatial error models, with a contemporaneous and a temporarily lagged dependent variable, show conditional support for these hypotheses. While each component of demographic change has a unique effect on the dependent variable, the rate at which births increase built-up land area is significantly greater than the rate at which deaths slow this process down.


Land development Asymmetry Births Deaths Migration 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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