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Not All Sprawl: Evolution of Employment Concentrations in Los Angeles, 1980-2000

Genevieve Giuliano, Christian Redfearn with Ajay Agarwal, Chen Li and Duan Zhuang
Are contemporary metropolitan regions becoming more dispersed? There are theoretical arguments for both concentration and dispersal. The purpose of our research is to establish an empirical base that can help us understand the evolution of metropolitan spatial structure. Using data for the Los Angeles region from 1980, 1990 and 2000, we identify employment centers and describe spatial trends in the pattern of employment inside and outside these centers. Our findings point to three trends: 1) a remarkable degree of stability in the system of centers; 2) a marked spread in the average distance of jobs from the traditional core; 3) emergence and growth of suburban employment centers. Thus decentralization is not simply dispersion, but rather both deconcentration and concentration. These trends appear to defy simple models of urban evolution and call for a more nuanced portrayal of the dynamics underlying these trends