The word ‘micropolitan’ doesn’t have an especially nice ring to it, does it? Seriously … it sounds like the sort of thing George Costanza would blame on having been “in the pool.”
Size matters, people … and while not a universal truism, bigger is generally equated with being better. Especially when dollars are at stake.
So, a recent recommendation by a group of federal statistical agencies to redefine the way American cities are classified for statistical purposes is raising eyebrows – and prompting concern amongst municipal bureaucrats all over the nation. Specifically, the proposed redefinition would raise the bar for what constitutes a “metropolitan statistical area” (MSA) in the United States – which is currently set at 50,000 people for each qualifying “urban core.”
Under the new guidance, this threshold would be doubled.
“The minimum urban area population to qualify a metropolitan statistical area should be increased from 50,000 to 100,000,” the federal bean counters argued in their report, which has been submitted to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
If approved, the new designation would take effect in 2023.
As of 2020, America was organized into nearly 1,100 statistical areas – including 392 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with urban core populations above 50,000 and 547 micropolitan statistical areas (mSAs) with urban core populations above 10,000. Additionally, there were 175 combined statistical areas (CSAs) which included various assortments of the first two categories.
Take a look …
(Click to view)
(Via: U.S. Census)
“The metropolitan area program has provided standard statistical area delineations for approximately seventy years,” a recent note included in the Federal Register observed. “In the 1940s, it became clear that the value of statistics produced by federal agencies would be greatly enhanced if agencies used a single set of geographic delineations for the nation’s largest centers of population and activity.”
The goal of these classifications, according to the government, is to provide “a nationally consistent set of delineations for collecting, tabulating, and publishing federal statistics for geographic areas.”
Assuming the proposed changes are accepted by OMB, 144 current metropolitan statistical areas would become “micropolitan” in 2023. Three such areas in South Carolina – Florence, Sumter and Hilton Head Island – would be affected.
That’s some serious shrinkage …
As of the 2010 Census, the core urban population of Florence stood at 89,557. Sumter featured a core urban population of 73,107 while Hilton Head Island’s number clocked in at 68,998.
Florence, Sumter and Hilton Head are currently the three smallest of the Palmetto State’s ten designated metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). South Carolina also currently features eight “micropolitan” areas as well as four combined statistical areas (CSAs).
The largest combined statistical area in South Carolina is the Greenville–Spartanburg–Anderson CSA – which has an estimated population of more than 1.47 million (as of 2019). Within this CSA is the Greenville-Anderson DMA – which boasted an estimated population of 920,477 (again, as of 2019).
Greenville, S.C. is the largest city within both areas, featuring an urban core population of more than 400,000. Greenville anchors the nation’s fortieth-largest CSA and its 60th largest MSA, based on current census estimates. Its CSA population has expanded by an estimated 10.37 percent since the last census, while its MSA population has grown by an estimated 11.69 percent.
By contrast, the Columbia combined statistical area – which includes “micropolitan” population centers in Newberry, S.C. and Orangeburg, S.C. – had a total estimated population of 963,048 (as of 2019). Within this CSA, the Columbia metropolitan statistical area had a population of 838,433 (again, as of 2019).
Columbia’s CSA population ranked No. 60 nationally as of 2019 and had grown by 7.29 percent since the last census. Its MSA population ranked No. 71 nationally and had expanded by 9.23 percent since 2010.
The real “boom town” in the Palmetto State over the past decade? Charleston …
While not part of a combined statistical area, Charleston’s MSA – which includes North Charleston, S.C. – has seen explosive growth since the last census was taken. According to the latest records, the total population of the Charleston MSA stood at 802,122 in 2019 – a staggering 20.69 percent increase from 2010.
Of cities its size or larger, only Orlando (Florida), Austin (Texas) and Raleigh (North Carolina) experienced a higher percentage of population growth over the same time period.
Even though it is on the verge of a downgrade, Hilton Head’s MSA population also saw significant growth from 2010 to 2019, according to census estimates – expanding by 18.81 percent to 222,195 people.
Florence and Sumter did not fare so well, however, shedding 0.32 percent and 1.38 percent of their MSA populations over the same time period, respectively.
So in addition to being downgraded they are literally shrinking, too.
Why change the designations? According to the feds, they want to keep track of “continuing change in U.S. population and activity patterns.” Basically, the argument is that America’s population has more than doubled since the original classification standards were put in place – while the percentage of the population living in a metropolitan statistical area has soared from 50 percent to nearly 90 percent.
Needless to say, this news outlet will keep close tabs on all of these numbers as the April 30, 2021 deadline approaches for the U.S. Census Bureau to provide population counts used for apportionment to the White House.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading.
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