What About Metropolitan Areas?

In general, metropolitan areas are composed of a central city and all of the surrounding areas that have close economic ties with that city. For example, the Phoenix metropolitan area includes Phoenix and its many suburbs such as Mesa, Glendale, and Scottsdale.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget lists 366 Metropolitan Statistical Areas. By definition, these MSAs must have a "core urban area" with a population of at least 50,000.

Metropolitan Statistical Areas may cross county lines and even state lines. For example, the Philadelphia MSA includes parts of New Jersey (Camden), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland.

If you've read the pages on "Population Gainers and Losers, 1950-2010," you know that most of the big industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest lost population in those years. However, almost all of their metropolitan areas had healthy increases in population during those years, as many people just moved from the city to a nearby suburb.

For example: Cincinnati's population declined 41% from 1950 to 2010, while its metropolitan area population increased 136%; Boston's population declined 23%, while its metropolitan area population increased 58%.

The only metropolitan area in our 125 cites to lose population since 1950 was Charleston, W.V. (down 5%).