Sprawl refers to a type of suburban development into low-density, less populated regions outside urban areas. The term carries negative connotations because of the alleged economic, environmental, and social consequences of development that is poorly planned and implemented.

It is common to distinguish between urban, suburban, and rural communities in terms of location, population density, and characteristic activities. Urban areas have high population density and are centers of commercial, governmental, and cultural activities. Suburban areas have lower population density and are primarily residential, with commercial development such as shopping malls and schools that support residents. Rural areas have the lowest population density and are typically focused on agriculture.

Urban areas face two options as population increases: (1) either increase the housing density of land already developed or ...

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