New Metropolitan Area Delineation: New York, Chicago and Washington Contract


The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has released a new metropolitan area delineation. Metropolitan areas are composed of counties. Connecticut recently abolished its counties, which were retained over the past 63 years only for statistical purposes. The counties were replaced by Planning Regions, which OMB assigned to metropolitan areas in this most recent delineation.

This report provides 2022 population estimates for the major metropolitan areas, including those that have fallen below 1,000,000 in the last year. In 2021, there were 56 major metropolitan areas. However, by 2022, this had dropped to 54, with New Orleans and Honolulu falling below 1,000,000. (see Table below)

Overall, the major metropolitan areas, including New Orleans and Honolulu, lost 57,000 residents, dropping from 189,482,000 to 189,424,000, a reduction of 58,000 (less than 0.1 percent).

Effect of the Connecticut County to Planning Region Revision

Nonetheless, there were some substantial changes outside Connecticut, as OMB used the latest commuting data to assign county level governments to their respective metropolitan areas. That data is available at these internet documents, sorted by residence and by workplace. The latest data is for 2016 through 2020, which would demonstrate only marginally the effect of the work at home revolution, which started in the Spring of 2020. . Bigger changes are to be expected in future years, especially where large central business districts have experienced substantial increases in working at home, such as in Chicago and New York (below).

Central Counties Explained

Further, all of the county additions occurred as a result of increases in commuting from outlying counties to central counties (not just downtown areas or core counties). Central counties are those completely or substantially in the urban area. This is often misunderstood, as the commuting destinations that drive the delineation of metropolitan areas are often thought of as the large central business districts (downtowns), or the largest city.

In fact, central counties are very large, and include all counties that are within or substantially within the urban area.

For example, in New York, 20 of the 22 counties are central. This means that commuters to Suffolk County, which stretches to the eastern tip of Long Island, are commuting to a central county.

In Chicago, nine of the 13 counties are central. Commuters to Porter and Lake Counties in Indiana commute to central counties.

In Washington, 13 of the 23 counties are central, one of which is Loudon County, out to the west of Dulles International Airport.

In Atlanta, 16 of the 29 counties are central. Including Forsyth County (see photo above), with its county seat (Cumming) more than 40 miles from Atlanta’s central business district.

On the other hand, in metropolitan areas where counties are larger geographically, it is not unusual for all counties to be central. The two counties of Los Angeles are central, and thus all commuting within the metropolitan area is to central counties. Thus, a commuter to San Clemente, on the San Diego County border and 62 miles from downtown Los Angeles, commutes to a central county. The same is true of Seattle, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Tucson.

Gains and Losses

The largest gain was in Fresno, CA, which added 160,000 and rose from a 55th ranking before the new delineation to 47th, at 1,175,000, with the addition of Madera County.

There’s even a little good news for metropolitan Cleveland, OH which has been losing population in recent decades. However the new delineation added 97,000 to its population, which now ranks 33rd, at 2,160,000. Columbus, OH, which had recently ascended to the second position in Ohio (following Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN) retained its advantage over Cleveland by only 1,000 residents.

Another rare gain was registered in Pittsburgh, which added 85,000 residents as a result of the new delineation, at 2,434,000 for a 26th ranking and managed to pass fast growing Austin and Sacramento since the 2020 census. Louisville, KY-IN gained 77.000, while Birmingham, AL and Grand Rapids, MI added 64,000.

The largest loss in the delineation was in New Orleans, LA, which dropped 273,000 residents as a result of the loss of St. Tammany Parish (Slidell is the county seat).

Chicago (IL-IN-WI), which has long been challenging the 10 million population mark, lost Kenosha County, Wisconsin (161,000), . Kenosha County was an outlying county and its commuting to the central counties of the Chicago metropolitan area fell below the threshold for inclusion. As a result, the metropolitan area’s name has reverted to Chicago, IL-IN at least temporarily. The Chicago metropolitan area is now estimated to have 9,274,000 residents.

New York, NY-NJ-PA suffered a similar fate, losing its only county in Pennsylvania --- the 61,000 loss reduces the metropolitan area’s population to 19,557,000. This is a more than half a million loss from the 20,140,000 counted in the 2020 census. The loss is more than the combined population of New York state’s second and third largest cities, Buffalo and Rochester. The metropolitan area’s name has reverted to New York, NY-NJ, at least temporarily.

Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV lost 109,000 residents, with Calvert County, Maryland and Madison County, Virginia removed from the metropolitan area.

New Estimates Early Next Year

New metropolitan area population estimates are due out in March of 2024. It seems likely that there will be other counties that are removed as post-2020 data accounts for the larger number of workers from home than preceded the pandemic. The era of the ever expanding metropolitan area, as defined by work trips to the urban area, could have reached a critical inflection point.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston, a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. He has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. His principal interests are economics, poverty alleviation, demographics, urban policy and transport. He is co-author of the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey and author of Demographia World Urban Areas.

Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (1977-1985) and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appointed him to the Amtrak Reform Council, to complete the unexpired term of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (1999-2002). He is author of War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life and Toward More Prosperous Cities: A Framing Essay on Urban Areas, Transport, Planning and the Dimensions of Sustainability.

Photos: Thomson200 via Wikimedia under CC 1.0 License.

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Major Metropolitan Area (& Fomer Major Metropolitan Area) Population After New Delineation
Rank Metropolitan Area New Population Former 2020 Population Change
1 New York, NY-NJ 19,557,311 19,617,869 -60,558
2 Los Angeles, CA 12,872,322 12,872,322 0
3 Chicago, IL-IN 9,274,140 9,441,957 -167,817
4 Dallas-Fort Worth, TX 7,943,685 7,943,685 0
5 Houston, TX 7,368,466 7,340,118 28,348
6 Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV 6,265,183 6,373,756 -108,573
7 Philadelphia, PA-NJ-DE-MD 6,241,164 6,241,164 0
8 Atlanta, GA 6,237,435 6,222,106 15,329
9 Miami, FL 6,139,340 6,139,340 0
10 Phoenix, AZ 5,015,678 5,015,678 0
11 Boston, MA-NH 4,900,550 4,900,550 0
12 Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 4,667,558 4,667,558 0
13 San Francisco, CA 4,579,599 4,579,599 0
14 Detroit, MI 4,345,761 4,345,761 0
15 Seattle, WA 4,034,248 4,034,248 0
16 Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI 3,693,729 3,693,729 0
17 Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL 3,290,730 3,290,730 0
18 San Diego, CA 3,276,208 3,276,208 0
19 Denver, CO 2,985,871 2,985,871 0
20 Baltimore, MD 2,835,672 2,835,672 0
21 St. Louis,, MO-IL 2,801,319 2,801,319 0
22 Orlando, FL 2,764,182 2,764,182 0
23 Charlotte, NC-SC 2,756,069 2,756,069 0
24 San Antonio, TX 2,655,342 2,655,342 0
25 Portland, OR-WA 2,509,489 2,509,489 0
26 Pittsburgh, PA 2,434,021 2,349,172 84,849
27 Austin, TX 2,421,115 2,421,115 0
28 Sacramento, CA 2,416,702 2,416,702 0
29 Las Vegas, NV 2,322,985 2,322,985 0
30 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 2,258,099 2,265,051 -6,952
31 Kansas City, MO-KS 2,209,494 2,209,494 0
32 Columbus, OH 2,161,511 2,161,511 0
33 Cleveland, OH 2,160,146 2,063,132 97,014
34 Indianapolis. IN 2,119,839 2,141,779 -21,940
35 Nashville, TN 2,072,283 2,046,828 25,455
36 San Jose, CA 1,938,524 1,938,524 0
37 Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC 1,787,188 1,806,840 -19,652
38 Jacksonville, FL 1,675,668 1,675,668 0
39 Providence, RI-MA 1,673,802 1,673,802 0
40 Milwaukee,WI 1,559,792 1,559,792 0
41 Raleigh, NC 1,484,338 1,484,338 0
42 Oklahoma City, OK 1,459,380 1,459,380 0
43 Louisville, KY-IN 1,361,946 1,284,553 77,393
44 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 1,339,855 1,332,305 7,550
45 Richmond, VA 1,339,182 1,339,182 0
46 Salt Lake City, UT 1,266,191 1,266,191 0
47 Birmingham, AL 1,181,196 1,116,857 64,339
48 Fresno, CA 1,175,446 1,015,190 160,256
49 Buffalo, NY 1,161,192 1,161,192 0
50 Hartford, CT 1,158,069 1,156,852 1,217
51 Grand Rapids, MI 1,157,752 1,094,198 63,554
52 Tucson, AZ 1,057,597 1,057,597 0
53 Rochester, NY 1,056,701 1,081,152 -24,451
54 Tulsa, OK 1,034,123 1,034,123 0
  New Orleans. LA 972,913 1,246,176 -273,263
  Honolulu, HI 995,638 995,638 0
    New Population Former 2020 Population Change
  Totals: Population & Change Since 2020 189,423,739 189,481,641 -57,902
Derived from Census Bureau data