Hidden Public Subsidies Spur Costly Growth and Sprawl

Local Communities Taxed Billions to Pay for USA's Population Growth

Taxpayers pay between $12,600 and $24,000 for each person added to U.S. population, finds a new report by Carrying Capacity Network.

Population growth does not pay for itself. The tax burden on established residents increases because the cost of expanding publicly-funded infrastructure and facilities to accommodate new population growth is greater than the tax and assessment contributions of the new residents. "With twice as many people projected for the next 60 years, we'll need twice as many hospitals, prisons, roads, schools, and more. This growth will place a heavy burden, economic and otherwise, on the American taxpayer," according to Earth Day founder and former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson.

The table below shows a range of costs per added person for selected cities:

CITY / AREA STATE Cost per added person
Honolulu HI $21,100
San Francisco CA $18,900
New York City NY $18,300
Los Angeles CA $17,500
Chicago IL $16,800
Washingon DC $15,400
Orlando FL $14,800
Houston TX $13,400

These figures indicate the per-capita cost of population growth based on the costs for cities to provide the following infrastructure items:

* School Facilities (K-12)

* Sanitary sewer systems

* Transportation systems

* Parkland/recreation facilities

* Water service facilities

* Library facilities

* Storm drainage systems

* Fire protection facilities

* Electric power generation and distribution

Note that the list of infrastructure items omits a number of tangible cost categories, including police facilities and services, waste disposal, and general government. Because of this omission, the costs shown in the table should be considered quite conservative. If the additional cost categories were included, the per-person cost of population growth would be demonstrably higher. Other "costs", though intangible, have significant impact: such as increased traffic congestion, crime, noise, lost farmland, wildlife habitat, and a diminished sense of community.

The CCN report is based on a 1998 Oregon study that quantifies costs for nine growth-related facilities, and conservatively concludes that each typical new, Oregon household, and each new resident, generate public costs of $33,259 and $16,301, respectively. Using the Oregon study as a baseline, Carrying Capacity Network extrapolated the per-capita costs to other states and cities by applying construction cost factors. These factors reflect local price differences in labor, materials, and equipment. By accounting for construction costs, the study shows that increased costs resulting from population growth are borne by virtually all communities, not only by high-profile or high population-growth areas.

The 33-page report is titled "Beyond Sprawl: The Cost of Population Growth to Local Communities." It is available from Carrying Capacity Network (free to the media and $12 to the general public) and contains costs for 730 municipalities across the nation.

Explosive Population Growth in the United States

The United States population recently surpassed 270 million and continues to grow by nearly 3 million per year (about 57,000 per week). More than 60% of this growth is due to immigration. It took all of history for our population to grow to 150 million by 1950; yet 120 million more people have been added in the 48 years since then. If this growth rate, 1.1% annually, is allowed to continue, the current U.S. population will double in fewer than 64 years. In other words, by 2050 the United States will have a population of over a half-billion, and population growth will still be on a steep, upward ascent. Ninety percent of that increase will be due to immigration.

To stabilize the U.S. population at about 325 million by 2025 would require maintaining a replacement level fertility rate (2.1 children per woman) and reducing legal immigration from over one million per year to 100,000 per year for several years.

Introduced by Earth Day founder Senator Gaylord Nelson December 11, 1998 at the National Press Club, DECEMBER 11, 1998


Home | About CCN | Support CCN | Publications | Action Alert | Links