Government Issues New Definitions for Metropolitan Statistical Areas

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued new definitions for some of the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Metropolitan Divisions in 2018.  In this context, the definition of a metro area is simply the list of counties(y) that officially belong to that metro, grouped together based on commuting patterns. Larger MSAs, such as New York or Washington DC, are divided into Metropolitan Divisions.

Major changes to MSA definitions used to take place only once a decade, after the revision of population counts and commuting patterns following the decennial census.  But starting with 2018, the government will publish new MSA definitions twice a decade: in years ending in ‘3,’ based on data from the decennial census; and then again in years ending in ‘8,’ based on updated data from the American Community Survey.

The 2018 OMB guidelines changed the name of 45 Metropolitan Areas and Divisions (Figure 1). The name of each area consists of up to three “principal cities” within the metro area, ordered according to population totals. The new names may be the result of a rearrangement in this order, or of cities reaching (or losing) the necessary population and employment totals to be named a principal city of a metro area.

In some cases, name changes occurred partly because the geographic composition of the area changed. For example, new counties were added to the Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI metro (Ionia County) and the Gulfport-Biloxi, MS metro (Stone County). In other areas, counties were removed from previous definitions, such as in the Fort Worth-Arlington-Grapevine, TX Division (Hood and Somervell Counties were dropped) and in Blacksburg-Christiansburg, VA (Floyd County).

The latest OMB guidelines also redefined the Divisions within the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Area. One of its Divisions, Dutchess County-Putnam County, NY was completely dissolved, while a new one was created: New Brunswick-Lakewood, NJ.

No metropolitan statistical areas were dissolved by the changes that took place in 2018, but two new ones were created: Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY and Enid, OK (Figure 2).

For 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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