Sprawl has been a natural process in cities where undeveloped land beckons the call for homeowners looking for cheaper housing. While the consequences of sprawl have riled environmentalists and modern urban planners, the trend continues.

The Chicago Tribune recently featured a two-part series on the roots and dynamics of urban sprawl, focusing on the Chicago metro area.

While the population of the seven-county Chicago metro area experienced a growth rate of 63 percent between 1950 and 2006, that rate jumps to 261 percent by removing the city of Chicago from the equation, according to the first article in the series, entitled “Leaps of Faith Drive Ever-Expanding ’Burbs.”

In the 1950s, “…the first wave of a mass migration out from its cities began to shape a new American landscape,” the Tribune says. And the move to the outer edges of suburbia – fueled by opportunities for homeowners to find bigger and newer houses at lower costs – is continuing as jobs, infrastructure and amenities follow suit.

Demographer Kenneth Johnson, of Loyola University, says in the article that he sees “no compelling reason for the outward push to stop, short of an energy crisis. And I’m not even convinced that would do it.”

In “Then and Now,Families Follow Distant Dreams,” the second part of the series, the Tribune describes the changing face of one Chicago suburb, Rolling Meadows.