Statistical Area Definitions

Statistical Area Definitions - New for 2024

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) determines the geographic definition of the statistical areas in the United States. 

Statistical areas are used by economists and Federal agencies to measure economic activity. For the most part, a statistical area has geographic boundaries in which a preponderance of the residents lives and works, earns and spends, forming a “contained, measurable economy.”

The major criteria for determining the boundaries of a statistical area are the commuting patterns of the workforce and residents.

On July 21, 2023, the OMB published Bulletin 23-01, which announced new definitions for the statistical areas based on the 2020 census and revised commuting patterns.

More than 200 areas were affected including name changes, addition or removal of counties, mergers with adjoining areas, loss of designation entirely, and changing from a Micropolitan to a Metropolitan area or the opposite.

Federal data collection and publication reflecting the new definitions will likely not occur until mid to late 2024, which should include annualized 2023 economic data. 2025 Economic Strength Rankings will be based on the new definitions.

Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by the location of the commuting workforce.  They must have at minimum one county and most of the time includes several counties.

Micropolitan Statistical Areas (MICRO) are smaller areas. A Micropolitan area must have an urbanized area with a population of at least 10,000 people but fewer than 50,000 people and must be at least one county.

POLICOM utilizes maps of the states which show the statistical area boundaries for its research.

For the maps for all states based on the new definitions, OMB Bulletin 23-01, click State Maps - 2024 (PDF).

POLCOM's 2024 Economic Strength Rankings are based on the March 6, 2020, OMB Bulletin 20-01, which defined the statistical areas in the United States.  For the previous definition maps, Bulletin 20-01, click 2020-2021 State Maps (PDF).

The lines on the maps point to the "Metropolitan or Micropolitan area" and not specifically to the location of the central city - the name of the area - which might be different than the point of the line.

The following chart links you to the map for individual states reflecting Bulletin 23-01.