Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Restricted Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Government and Legal Studies

First Advisor

Andrew Rudalevige


In the decades following World War II, mass suburbanization remade the American landscape. While suburbs accounted for 83% of the nation’s growth between 1950 and 1970, cities bled their populations and natural resources dwindled. Treating the postwar era as a critical juncture, this thesis examines the political history of twentieth-century state land use policy to illuminate how competing interests have shaped policy outcomes across the United States. Specifically, the paper seeks to explain the passage of statewide growth management and smart growth programs. After providing a history of American suburbanization, the paper considers an emergent challenge to the postwar growth paradigm as manifested through resistance to urban renewal, open space loss, and diverse anti-freeway coalitions that combined actors from each movement. Thereafter, I detail the development of statewide growth management and smart growth programs before employing a set of case studies to discern causal factors associated with the success or failure of such legislation. Testing the theory that broad-based coalitions were essential to the passage of state growth management legislation, I perform a controlled comparison of two pairs of states, Maryland and Virginia and Oregon and Washington, employing additional within-case analysis for Washington. In so doing, I find evidence that diverse coalitions—from environmentalists and housing advocates to farmers and historic preservationists—were essential to the passage of state growth management programs. I conclude by considering the implications of these findings and the relevance of state land use policy to contemporary issues such as affordable housing and climate change.


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