A More and More Metropolitan America

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Written by: Marc PerryCounty and Metro Population

Census Bureau population estimates released today reveal a nation becoming increasingly metropolitan. The percentage of our nation’s population living in a metropolitan area ticked up from 85.3 percent in 2012 to 85.4 percent in 2013.

While this may not look like much of an increase, it’s worth noting that the population living in such areas grew by 2.3 million over the period. At the same time, the population living in micropolitan statistical areas climbed by a mere 8,000, and the number living in neither metros nor micros dropped by more than 35,000. So metro areas were responsible for virtually all of our nation’s population growth.

Metro areas, by the way, contain a core urban area of at least 50,000 people and consist of the county or counties that area is located in, plus any adjacent counties from which a relatively large number of people commute to work in the urban core. Micro areas – the kid sister of sorts to metro areas ─ have a core with at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 people.

Large metro areas ─ those with populations of 1 million or more ─ collectively grew more than twice as fast as smaller ones (those with fewer than 250,000 residents).

Many of us now live in one of the biggest of the big metros. Nearly one in seven Americans reside in either the New York, Los Angeles or Chicago areas. And almost one in three live in one of the 10 most populous areas, which include the three just mentioned, plus Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami, Atlanta and Boston.

The 10 fastest-growing areas are relatively small in size. And virtually all are located either in or near the Great Plains or in or near the Gulf Coast.

For more information on population changes in metro areas, see our population estimates released today at http://www.census.gov/popest/.

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6 Responses to A More and More Metropolitan America

  1. Bill Lockhart says:

    How much longer will the US Census Bureau continue its fiction that the San Francisco-San Jose, Oakland, CA metropolitan area is NOT one metro area? In most all of its rankings it separates San Jose and most of Silicon Valley from the rest of the San Francisco Bay area, even though transportation, economic and social ties cross the meager political boundaries. If the true San Francisco Bay Area had been considered one metropolitan region (which it is), it would have been ranked FIFTH in the “10 Metro Areas with the largest numerical growth” because it grew by over 88,800 people from 2012-2013, beating Washington DC.
    C’mon Census Bureau — reflect reality.

  2. Marc Perry says:

    Thanks for the comment. According to the Office of Management and Budget’s standards for delineating metro areas, there isn’t enough commuting between the San Francisco metro area and the San Jose metro area to merge them into a single area. But while the commuting levels between the 2 areas fall well below the minimum threshold that’s required to create a single metro area, the commuting IS enough to qualify them as a larger regional unit delineated by OMB that’s known as a combined statistical area (CSA). There are 169 CSAs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and they reflect exactly that broader regional unit that you speak of. For Los Angeles, the CSA includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties. In the Washington area, the CSA includes Baltimore. For the San Francisco Bay area, the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland CSA includes 12 counties; it grew by 105,295 this past year, which ranks it 6th among all CSAs.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is there a page on the Census Bureau website showing the current components of the MSA’s and CSA’s? When I search for this, I can only find one from 2003, which is no longer accurate.

  4. Philip Avon St. Cyr says:

    Just want to thank both of the previous posters for their contributions. Really helped clarify a lot of things for me.

  5. Philip Avon St. Cyr says:

    Just wanted to say I value sites like this where straightforward information and unbiased interpretation is provided. I wish others would evaluate their information sources critically and consider alternatives like these.

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