Government Issues New Definitions for Metropolitan Statistical Areas


The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently issued new delineations  for the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Metropolitan Divisions, based on data from the 2010 Census.  Major changes to MSA definitions take place every 10 years, when population counts and commuting patterns are revised following the decennial census.  In 2013, 23 brand new areas were designated as MSAs: 10 in the South region, 5 in the Northeast, 5 in the West, and 3 in the Midwest.  Pennsylvania added 4 news MSAs, the most of any state (Figure 1).


Besides creating brand new metro areas, the OMB guidelines also changed the name of many MSAs (and a few Divisions).   The name of each MSA consists of up to three “principal cities” within the metro area, ordered according to population totals.  The new MSA names may be the result of merging MSAs, or principal cities or counties being added or removed from the previous delineation.  One such name change, for example, took place in Baltimore, MD, where the MSA name changed from Baltimore-Towson, MD to Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD.  This indicates that Columbia now has the necessary population and employment totals to be named a principal city of this metropolitan area.  An interesting name change took place in Hawaii, where the state’s largest MSA changed from Honolulu, HI to Urban Honolulu, HI.  Figure 2 shows additional examples of metro areas whose names changed in 2013.

Changing MSA

The new OMB guidelines also resulted in a few areas losing their MSA status (Figure 3).  In some cases, the counties affected were absorbed by another MSA; while in other cases, the counties are simply not metropolitan counties any longer.  Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY is an example of the former.  Its two counties were absorbed into the divisions that make up the New York City MSA.  Danville, VA, meanwhile, is an example of the latter case – its two counties are no longer in any metropolitan statistical area.

No Longer MSAFor builders or property owners who make use of government housing programs, it’s important to note that the metropolitan-based system of income limits and Fair Market Rents will probably not be affected by these definition changes for at least one more year.

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