Vol. 78 (2021)
Original Articles - Urban, Land, Environmental Appraisal and Economics

Urban sprawl and air quality in European Cities: an empirical assessment

Federica Cappelli
Department of Economics, Roma Tre University
Giovanni Guastella
2FEEM, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei
Stefano Pareglio
Department of Economics, Roma Tre University
Published April 5, 2021
  • Air pollution,
  • Urban sprawl,
  • European cities,
  • Additive models


In this paper we estimate the relationship between urban sprawl and a measure of air quality, namely the number of days in which the PM10 concentration exceeds safeguard limits in European Union cities. Building on a multidimensional representation of sprawl, the paper employs several indicators to account for built-up area development, population density, and residential discontinuity. The paper employs generalised additive models to disentangle the non-linear effects in the variables and the interaction effects of the three sprawl dimensions. A significant and robust effect of urban morphology emerges after controlling for socio-economic, demographic, and climatic factors and the geographical location of the city. We find that urban sprawl impacts positively on pollutant concentration, but the effect is highly context-specific because of threshold effects and interactions.


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