Micropolitan Areas 1960-2010

Authors: Todd Gardner*, U.S. Bureau Of the Census
Topics: Quantitative Methods, Urban Geography, Population Geography
Keywords: metropolitan, micropolitan, methods
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The category of “Micropolitan Statistical Areas” was introduced with the changes in the standards for defining metropolitan areas at the time of the 2000 census. Metropolitan areas, defined as the counties with strong commuting ties to urban cores with populations of 50,000 or more, became a subset of Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSA) along with micropolitan areas. The rules for defining these areas are the same, except that micropolitan areas have urban cores with populations of 10,000 to 49,999. Using data covering the period from 1960 to 2010, it’s possible to apply these rules to historical data to create comparable geographic units covering a broad span of time, demonstrating that the introduction of micropolitan areas was several decades too late. Micropolitan areas would have been a useful geographic unit in 1960 because they accounted for roughly double the share of population they did in 2000. Also, because commuting distances were not as long as they would later become, micropolitan areas in the early years of this period were more isolated and self-contained. This research looks at the changing population of metropolitan and micropolitan areas, such as age structure and the racial/ethnic makeup of the population, as well as the interrelationships between metro and micro areas over the period from 1960 to 2010. This work also discusses a number of methodological challenges, namely harmonizing the coding of a variety of geographic levels and developing comparable datasets across several decades of census data.

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