Statistical Area Definitions

Statistical Area Definitions

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 live and work, earn and spend, 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.

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.

On March 6, 2020, the OMB issued Bulletin 20-01 , which defined the statistical areas in the United States.  There are 384 Metropolitan Areas and 543 Micropolitan Areas.

As of January 1, 2023, the OMB has not changed the definition of any Metropolitan or Micropolitan area subsequent to Bulletin 20-01.

POLICOM's 2023 Economic Strength Rankings are based on the definitions of Bulletin 20-01.

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

The maps  reflect the definitions included in Bulletin 20-01 and appear in 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 20-01.