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San Antonio And Austin Lead Nation In Sprawl, Study Finds

Houston Sprawl

A new study by the New York Times using census data and U.S. Postal Service counts has found cities are not becoming as dense as previously thought. Of the 51 metro areas with more than 1 million people, average neighborhood density rose in 10 and fell in 41. Among the sprawling cities, San Antonio and Austin spread the furthest. In both cities, average neighborhood density fell by 5% between 2010 and 2016.

There is a clear pattern; dense metros are getting denser while sprawling metros are spreading out further. The top four sprawling cities — Houston, Oklahoma City, Austin and San Antonio — have never been considered dense. The densest metros are becoming more so, with Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Chicago leading the pack. 

A lot of that activity is outside of the downtown cores. Most large metro areas, including the fastest-growing ones, are increasingly suburban.