Note: If someone has hard numbers showing that pro-suburban policies outweigh anti-suburban policies, I’m all ears. My point is that the net effect of all levels of the American government on surburbia are far from obvious.
Ryan more or less takes care of it all, but as a request for hard numbers…
1) Bryan wrote: “…The houses are spacious…” If you are buying a mortgage, and the interest rate is 6%, and you can write off the interest you pay on the mortgage, you suddenly have the ability to overbid 21% (assuming 1/3rd is the tax rate, the NPV of that deduction monthly adds up to 21%). In dense areas where supply cannot be extended that leads to competitive bidding on smaller places; in suburbs, where housing is being built, it translates into square footage. Builders know this, and set the building larger to take this into account. That deduction has just as much to do with the larger houses that people buy as the regulation in whether or not they have to be detachable homes.
2) Nathaniel Baum-Snow, Did Highways Cause Suburbanization?
Between 1950 and 1990, the aggregate population of central cities in the United States declined by 17 percent despite population growth of 72 percent in metropolitan areas as a whole. This paper assesses the extent to which the construction of new limited access highways has contributed to central city population decline. Using planned portions of the interstate highway system as a source of exogenous variation, empirical estimates indicate that one new highway passing through a central city reduces its population by about 18 percent. Estimates imply that aggregate central city population would have grown by about 8 percent had the interstate highway system not been built.
These are two massive chunks of change the government has thrown at both the idea of suburbs (if you build it, they will come), and how those suburbs would look (like a neo-Victorian Big Gulp). I’d need to see a big chunk of change thrown in the opposite direction for me to think government intervention has been more-or-less even in both directions.