Where Have All the Metropolitan Statistical Areas Gone?

A total of 144 metropolitan statistical areas might lose their federal designation if a proposal under discussion at the Office of Management and Budget is approved.

2 minute read

March 9, 2021, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Wine Country

The Napa Metropolitan Statistical Area, shown here in the city of Calistoga, would be one of 144 to become a Micropolitan Statistical Area under a proposal at the federal Office of Management and Budget. | Dragan Jovanovic / Shutterstock

Mike Schneider, writing for the Associated Press, reveals the details of a plan under consideration at the federal Office of Management and Budget that would remove metropolitan statistical area (MSA) designations for 144 locations in the United States. The change would mean 144 MSAs with populations between 50,000 and 100,000 would be designated as micropolitan statistical areas instead. The 144 MSAs targeted for the change in designation represent a full third of the nation's total MSAs.

Officials in some of the cities included in the list of 144 are expressing concern that the change would affect federal funding for programs tied to MSA designation, like housing, transportation, and Medicare reimbursement programs, and create more competition for funding devoted to rural locations.

While Schneider's article focuses on some of the Midwestern locations likely to be impacted by the proposed change, the news also spread to the South, particularly in Alabama, where Lawrence Specker reports in a separate article that seven cities in that state are likely to be changed under the proposal, along with MSAs in the surrounding states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina.

As noted by Specker, the proposal has been under consideration for a few years, back to August 2019. The proposal is intended to update the definition of MSAs for the first time since the 1950s. The nation's population has doubled in that time, and percentage of Americans living in MSAs has increased from about half to 86 percent.

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