Visualizing the Material Impact of Global Urbanization
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Visualizing the Material Impact of Global Urbanization

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Material Impact Urbanization

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Visualizing the Material Impact of Global Urbanization

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Cities only cover 2% of the world’s land surface, but activities within their boundaries consume over 75% of the planet’s material resources.

With the expansion of urban areas, the world’s material consumption is expected to grow from 41.1 billion tonnes in 2010 to about 89 billion tonnes by 2050.

In today’s graphic, we use data from the UN International Resource Panel to visualize the material impact of global urbanization.

How Material Consumption is Calculated

Today, more than 4.3 billion people or 55% of the world’s population live in urban settings, and the number is expected to rise to 80% by 2050.

Every year, the world produces an immense amount of materials in order to supply the continuous construction of human-built environments.

To calculate how much we use to build our cities, the UN uses the Domestic Material Consumption (DMC), a measure of all raw materials extracted from the domestic territory per year, plus all physical imports, minus all physical exports.

Generally, the material consumption is highly uneven across the different world regions. In terms of material footprint, the world’s wealthiest countries consume 10 times as much as the poorest and twice the global average.

Based on the total urban DMC, Eastern Asia leads the world in material consumption, with China consuming more than half of the world’s aluminum and concrete.

Major Global Regions2010 Material Consumption (billion tonnes)2050P Material Consumption (billion tonnes)% total urban DMC change (2010-2050P)
Africa2.017.7792%
Southern Asia2.78.6223%
South-Eastern Asia2.05.6180%
Central and Western Asia1.94.7151%
Oceania1.12.6136%
Eastern Asia9.019.2113%
South and Central America6.511.171%
Europe8.310.425%
North America7.79.017%
World41.188.8116%

According to the UN, the bulk of urban growth will happen in the cities of the Global South, particularly in China, India, and Nigeria.

Consumption in Asia is set to increase as the continent hosts the majority of the world’s megacities—cities housing more than 10 million people.

However, the biggest jump in the next decades will happen in Africa. The continent is expected to double in population by 2050, with material consumption jumping from 2 billion tonnes to 17.7 billion tonnes per year.

A Resource-Efficient Future

Global urban DMC is already at a rate of 8–17 tonnes per capita per year.

With the world population expected to swell by almost two and a half billion people by 2050, new and existing cities must accommodate many of them.

This could exacerbate existing problems like pollution and carbon emissions, but it could equally be an opportunity to develop the low-carbon and resource-efficient cities of the future.

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Demographics

Population Boom: Charting How We Got to Nearly 8 Billion People

In the next year or so, humanity is expected to pass the 8 billion person milestone. These charts and maps put global population growth into context.

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Today, the global population is estimated to sit at 7.91 billion people.

By the end of 2022 or within the first months of 2023, that number is expected to officially cross the 8 billion mark. Incredibly, each new billion people has come faster than the previous—it was roughly only a decade ago that we crossed the 7 billion threshold.

How did we get here, and what has global population growth looked like historically?

In this series of six charts from Our World in Data, we’ll break down how the global population got to its current point, as well as some big picture trends behind the data.

#1: Mapping the Population Over 5,000 Years

New York, São Paulo, and Jakarta were not always bustling metropolises. In fact, for long parts of the history of civilization, it was unusual to find humans congregating in many of the present-day city locations we now think of as population centers.

The human population has always moved around, seeking out new opportunity and freedoms.

5,000 years of population movement

As of 3,000 BC, humans could be mainly found in Central America, the Mediterranean, the Fertile Crescent, and parts of India, Japan, and China. It’s no coincidence that that agriculture was independently discovered in many of these same places during the Neolithic Revolution.

#2: The Hockey Stick Curve

For even more context, let’s zoom way out by using a timeline that goes back to when woolly mammoths still roamed the Earth:

Annual World Population since 10,000 BC

From this 10,000-foot view, it’s clear that human population growth started going exponential around the time of the Second Agricultural Revolution, which started in the 17th century in Britain. This is when new technologies and farming conventions took root, making it possible to grow the food supply at an unprecedented pace.

Soon these discoveries spread around the world, enabling population booms everywhere.

#3: The Time to Add 1 Billion

The data and projections in this chart are a few years old, but the concept remains the same:

Time to Add 1 Billion in Population

It took all of human history until 1803 to reach the first billion in population. The next billion took 124 years, and the next 33 years. More recent billions have come every dozen or so.

So why then, are future billion people additions projected to take longer and longer to achieve?

#4: The Growth Rate is Shrinking

Because of demographics and falling fertility rates, the growth rate of the global population has actually been on a downward trend for some time.

Falling Population Growth Rate

As this growth rate gets closer to zero, the population curve has become less exponential like we saw in the first graphs. Population growth is leveling out, and it may even go negative at some point in the future.

#5: The Regional Breakdown

Although the rate of population growth is expected to slow down, there are still parts of the world that are adding new people fast, as you can see on this interactive regional breakdown:

Since 1973, Asia has doubled its population from 2.3 billion to 4.6 billion people.

Comparatively, over the same time frame, Europe has gone from 670 million to 748 million, equal to just an 11% increase.

#6: The Present and Future of Population Growth

Population projections by groups like the United Nations see the global population peaking at around 10.9 billion people in 2100.

World Population 1700 to 2100

That said, there isn’t a consensus around this peak.

Organizations like the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) have a different perspective, and they have recently modeled that the global population will top out at 9.7 billion people by the year 2064.

As we climb to surpass the 8 billion mark in the coming months, it will be interesting to see what path humanity ends up following.

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Misc

This Giant Map Shows All the Metropolitan Areas in the U.S.

Fitting a complex population center into a tidy statistical box is no easy feat. Thankfully, this U.S. Census Bureau map is up to the challenge.

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Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas of the United St

This Giant Map Shows All the Metropolitan Areas in the U.S.

The United States is the third most populous country in the world, made up of close to 20,000 cities and towns, and 333 million individuals.

Dividing these population clusters into a coherent framework of statistical areas is no small feat, and the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest map shows just how complex of a task it is.

This enormous map—which covers the entire country, including Puerto Rico—includes 392 metropolitan statistical areas and 547 micropolitan statistical areas.

For reference, here are all the current metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, organized by population:

RankMetropolitan statistical areaPopulation (2020)Change since 2010
1New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA MSA20,140,4706.58%
2Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA MSA13,200,9982.90%
3Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI MSA9,618,5021.66%
4Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA7,637,38719.96%
5Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX MSA7,122,24020.30%
6Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA6,385,16213.02%
7Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA6,245,0514.69%
8Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL MSA6,138,33310.31%
9Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA MSA6,089,81515.19%
10Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH MSA4,941,6328.55%
11Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ MSA4,845,83215.57%
12San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA MSA4,749,0089.54%
13Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA MSA4,599,8398.88%
14Detroit–Warren–Dearborn, MI MSA4,392,0412.23%
15Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA MSA4,018,76216.83%
16Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI MSA3,690,26110.26%
17San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA MSA3,298,6346.57%
18Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA3,175,27514.09%
19Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO MSA2,963,82116.53%
20Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD MSA2,844,5104.94%
21St. Louis, MO-IL MSA2,820,2531.17%
22Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA2,673,37625.25%
23Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC MSA2,660,32918.56%
24San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX MSA2,558,14319.40%
25Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA MSA2,512,85912.89%
26Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, CA MSA2,397,38211.55%
27Pittsburgh, PA MSA2,370,9300.62%
28Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX MSA2,283,37133.04%
29Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV MSA2,265,46116.10%
30Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN MSA2,256,8845.58%
31Kansas City, MO-KS MSA2,192,0359.09%
32Columbus, OH MSA2,138,92612.46%
33Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN MSA2,111,04011.82%
34Cleveland-Elyria, OH MSA2,088,2510.53%
35San Juan-Bayamón-Caguas, PR Metropolitan Statistical Area2,002,906-14.77%
36San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA MSA2,000,4688.90%
37Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN MSA1,989,51920.86%
38Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA1,799,6745.00%
39Providence-Warwick, RI-MA MSA1,676,5794.73%
40Jacksonville, FL MSA1,605,84819.34%
41Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI MSA1,574,7311.21%
42Oklahoma City, OK MSA1,425,69513.78%
43Raleigh-Cary, NC MSA1,413,98225.08%
44Memphis, TN-MS-AR MSA1,337,7791.65%
45Richmond, VA MSA1,314,43410.78%
46Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN MSA1,285,4396.88%
47New Orleans-Metairie, LA MSA1,271,8456.89%
48Salt Lake City, UT MSA1,257,93615.63%
49Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT MSA1,213,5310.09%
50Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY MSA1,166,9022.76%
51Birmingham-Hoover, AL MSA1,115,2895.11%
52Rochester, NY MSA1,090,1350.97%
53Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI MSA1,087,5929.45%
54Tucson, AZ MSA1,043,4336.44%
55Urban Honolulu, HI MSA1,016,5086.64%
56Tulsa, OK MSA1,015,3318.30%
57Fresno, CA MSA1,008,6548.40%
58Worcester, MA-CT MSA978,5296.71%
59Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA MSA967,60411.82%
60Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT MSA957,4194.43%
61Greenville-Anderson, SC MSA928,19512.63%
62Albuquerque, NM MSA916,5283.32%
63Bakersfield, CA MSA909,2358.29%
64Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY MSA899,2623.28%
65Knoxville, TN MSA879,7737.96%
66McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX MSA870,78112.39%
67Baton Rouge, LA MSA870,5695.41%
68El Paso, TX MSA868,8598.05%
69New Haven-Milford, CT MSA864,8350.27%
70Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ MSA861,8894.96%
71Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA MSA843,8432.49%
72North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL MSA833,71618.72%
73Columbia, SC MSA829,4708.06%
74Dayton-Kettering, OH MSA814,0491.85%
75Charleston-North Charleston, SC MSA799,63620.32%
76Stockton, CA MSA779,23313.71%
77Greensboro-High Point, NC MSA776,5667.29%
78Boise City, ID MSA764,71824.03%
79Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL MSA760,82222.96%
80Colorado Springs, CO MSA755,10516.96%
81Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR MSA748,0316.90%
82Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL MSA725,04620.42%
83Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA MSA709,46616.98%
84Akron, OH MSA702,219-0.14%
85Springfield, MA MSA699,1620.90%
86Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY MSA697,2214.02%
87Ogden-Clearfield, UT MSA694,86316.36%
88Madison, WI MSA680,79612.45%
89Winston-Salem, NC MSA675,9665.52%
90Provo-Orem, UT MSA671,18527.41%
91Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL MSA668,92113.32%
92Syracuse, NY MSA662,057-0.08%
93Durham-Chapel Hill, NC MSA649,90315.18%
94Wichita, KS MSA647,6103.94%
95Toledo, OH MSA646,604-0.74%
96Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC MSA611,0008.17%
97Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL MSA606,61211.64%
98Jackson, MS MSA591,9780.97%
99Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA MSA591,7127.69%
100Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA MSA585,78413.80%
101Scranton–Wilkes-Barre, PA MSA567,5590.70%
102Chattanooga, TN-GA MSA562,6476.53%
103Lancaster, PA MSA552,9846.46%
104Modesto, CA MSA552,8787.47%
105Portland-South Portland, ME MSA551,7407.32%
106Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR MSA546,72524.22%
107Lansing-East Lansing, MI MSA541,2971.24%
108Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA MSA541,243-4.34%
109Fayetteville, NC MSA520,3788.17%
110Lexington-Fayette, KY MSA516,8119.47%
111Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL MSA509,90513.57%
112Huntsville, AL MSA491,72317.75%
113Reno, NV MSA490,59615.32%
114Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA MSA488,8631.03%
115Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC MSA487,72229.46%
116Port St. Lucie, FL MSA487,65714.98%
117Lafayette, LA MSA478,3842.49%
118Springfield, MO MSA475,4328.87%
119Killeen-Temple, TX MSA475,36717.29%
120Visalia, CA MSA473,1177.00%
121Asheville, NC MSA469,01510.39%
122York-Hanover, PA MSA456,4384.94%
123Vallejo, CA MSA453,4919.71%
124Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA MSA448,2295.74%
125Salinas, CA MSA439,0355.78%
126Salem, OR MSA433,35310.91%
127Mobile, AL MSA430,197-0.09%
128Reading, PA MSA428,8494.23%
129Manchester-Nashua, NH MSA422,9375.54%
130Corpus Christi, TX MSA421,9334.17%
131Brownsville-Harlingen, TX MSA421,0173.64%
132Fort Wayne, IN MSA419,6017.97%
133Salisbury, MD-DE MSA418,04611.84%
134Gulfport-Biloxi, MS MSA416,2597.15%
135Flint, MI MSA406,211-4.60%
136Savannah, GA MSA404,79816.45%
137Peoria, IL MSA402,391-3.33%
138Canton-Massillon, OH MSA401,574-0.70%
139Anchorage, AK MSA398,3284.60%
140Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX MSA397,5652.27%
141Shreveport-Bossier City, LA MSA393,406-1.30%
142Trenton-Princeton, NJ MSA387,3405.68%
143Montgomery, AL MSA386,0473.07%
144Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL MSA384,3241.22%
145Tallahassee, FL MSA384,2984.60%
146Eugene-Springfield, OR MSA382,9718.89%
147Ocala, FL MSA375,90813.47%
148Naples-Marco Island, FL MSA375,75216.87%
149Ann Arbor, MI MSA372,2587.97%
150Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC MSA365,276-0.06%
151Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH MSA359,862-2.98%
152Fort Collins, CO MSA359,06619.84%
153Lincoln, NE MSA340,21712.60%
154Gainesville, FL MSA339,24711.20%
155Rockford, IL MSA338,798-3.04%
156Boulder, CO MSA330,75812.29%
157Greeley, CO MSA328,98130.12%
158Columbus, GA-AL MSA328,8836.85%
159Green Bay, WI MSA328,2687.19%
160Spartanburg, SC MSA327,99715.37%
161South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI MSA324,5011.65%
162Lubbock, TX MSA321,36810.51%
163Clarksville, TN-KY MSA320,53517.01%
164Roanoke, VA MSA315,2512.12%
165Evansville, IN-KY MSA314,0490.80%
166Kingsport-Bristol, TN-VA MSA307,614-0.62%
167Kennewick-Richland, WA MSA303,62219.85%
168Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater, WA MSA294,79316.86%
169Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV MSA293,8449.18%
170Utica-Rome, NY MSA292,264-2.38%
171Duluth, MN-WI MSA291,6380.34%
172Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL MSA286,97321.67%
173Longview, TX MSA286,1842.21%
174Aguadilla-Isabela, PR Metropolitan Statistical Area286,064-15.72%
175Wilmington, NC MSA285,90512.17%
176San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA MSA282,4244.74%
177Merced, CA MSA281,2029.93%
178Waco, TX MSA277,5479.80%
179Sioux Falls, SD MSA276,73021.23%
180Cedar Rapids, IA MSA276,5207.20%
181Bremerton-Silverdale-Port Orchard, WA MSA275,6119.75%
182Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ MSA274,534-0.01%
183Erie, PA MSA270,876-3.45%
184Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA MSA270,8613.23%
185Amarillo, TX MSA268,7616.68%
186Tuscaloosa, AL MSA268,67412.32%
187Norwich-New London, CT MSA268,555-2.01%
188College Station-Bryan, TX MSA268,24817.31%
189Laredo, TX MSA267,1146.72%
190Kalamazoo-Portage, MI MSA261,6704.53%
191Lynchburg, VA MSA261,5933.55%
192Charleston, WV MSA258,859-6.89%
193Yakima, WA MSA256,7285.55%
194Fargo, ND-MN MSA249,84319.67%
195Binghamton, NY MSA247,138-1.82%
196Fort Smith, AR-OK MSA244,310-1.57%
197Appleton, WI MSA243,1477.75%
198Prescott Valley-Prescott, AZ MSA236,20911.93%
199Macon-Bibb County, GA MSA233,8020.65%
200Tyler, TX MSA233,47911.33%
201Topeka, KS MSA233,152-0.31%
202Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, AL MSA231,76727.16%
203Barnstable Town, MA MSA228,9966.07%
204Bellingham, WA MSA226,84712.78%
205Rochester, MN MSA226,3299.40%
206Burlington-South Burlington, VT MSA225,5626.77%
207Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN MSA223,7166.38%
208Medford, OR MSA223,2599.87%
209Champaign-Urbana, IL MSA222,5382.17%
210Lake Charles, LA MSA222,40211.42%
211Charlottesville, VA MSA221,5249.91%
212Las Cruces, NM MSA219,5614.94%
213Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC MSA215,90815.45%
214Athens-Clarke County, GA MSA215,41511.88%
215Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ MSA213,2676.53%
216Chico, CA MSA211,632-3.80%
217Ponce, PR Metropolitan Statistical Area211,465-19.48%
218Columbia, MO MSA210,86410.76%
219Springfield, IL MSA208,640-0.73%
220Johnson City, TN MSA207,2854.31%
221Houma-Thibodaux, LA MSA207,137-0.50%
222Monroe, LA MSA207,1041.31%
223Elkhart-Goshen, IN MSA207,0474.80%
224Jacksonville, NC MSA204,57615.08%
225Yuma, AZ MSA203,8814.15%
226Gainesville, GA MSA203,13613.05%
227Florence, SC MSA199,964-2.73%
228St. Cloud, MN MSA199,6715.59%
229Bend, OR MSA198,25325.69%
230Racine, WI MSA197,7271.19%
231Warner Robins, GA MSA191,61414.33%
232Saginaw, MI MSA190,124-5.02%
233Punta Gorda, FL MSA186,84716.80%
234Terre Haute, IN MSA185,031-2.49%
235Billings, MT MSA184,16710.17%
236Redding, CA MSA182,1552.78%
237Dover, DE MSA181,85112.04%
238Kingston, NY MSA181,851-0.35%
239Joplin, MO MSA181,4093.36%
240Yuba City, CA MSA181,2088.58%
241Jackson, TN MSA180,5040.45%
242St. George, UT MSA180,27930.53%
243El Centro, CA MSA179,7022.96%
244Bowling Green, KY MSA179,63913.27%
245Abilene, TX MSA176,5796.85%
246Muskegon, MI MSA175,8242.11%
247Iowa City, IA MSA175,41914.96%
248Midland, TX MSA175,22023.68%
249Panama City, FL MSA175,2163.77%
250Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA174,24124.24%
251Arecibo, PR Metropolitan Statistical Area173,218-13.16%
252Hattiesburg, MS MSA172,2316.05%
253Eau Claire, WI MSA172,0076.74%
254Oshkosh-Neenah, WI MSA171,7302.84%
255Burlington, NC MSA171,41513.42%
256Coeur d'Alene, ID MSA171,36223.73%
257Bloomington, IL MSA170,9540.81%
258Greenville, NC MSA170,2431.25%
259Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA MSA168,4610.38%
260East Stroudsburg, PA MSA168,327-0.89%
261Pueblo, CO MSA168,1625.72%
262Wausau-Weston, WI MSA166,4282.22%
263Blacksburg-Christiansburg, VA MSA166,3782.10%
264Odessa, TX MSA165,17120.45%
265Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI MSA164,7546.41%
266Janesville-Beloit, WI MSA163,6872.09%
267Bloomington, IN MSA161,0390.93%
268Jackson, MI MSA160,3660.07%
269Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL MSA159,78815.76%
270State College, PA MSA158,1722.72%
271Idaho Falls, ID MSA157,42918.13%
272Decatur, AL MSA156,4941.73%
273Madera, CA MSA156,2553.57%
274Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA MSA155,9324.22%
275Grand Junction, CO MSA155,7036.12%
276Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, KY MSA155,5724.88%
277Santa Fe, NM MSA154,8237.39%
278Monroe, MI MSA154,8091.83%
279Niles, MI MSA154,316-1.59%
280Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ MSA154,152-1.75%
281Homosassa Springs, FL MSA153,8438.93%
282Hanford-Corcoran, CA MSA152,486-0.32%
283Bangor, ME MSA152,199-1.12%
284Alexandria, LA MSA152,192-1.12%
285Dothan, AL MSA151,0073.69%
286Florence-Muscle Shoals, AL MSA150,7912.48%
287Jefferson City, MO MSA150,3090.34%
288Sioux City, IA-NE-SD MSA149,9404.43%
289Albany, GA MSA148,922-3.21%
290Wichita Falls, TX MSA148,128-2.10%
291Valdosta, GA MSA148,1266.12%
292Texarkana, TX-AR MSA147,519-1.13%
293Logan, UT-ID MSA147,34817.46%
294Flagstaff, AZ MSA145,1017.95%
295Rocky Mount, NC MSA143,870-5.59%
296Lebanon, PA MSA143,2577.25%
297Dalton, GA MSA142,8370.43%
298Morristown, TN MSA142,7094.47%
299Winchester, VA-WV MSA142,63211.02%
300Morgantown, WV MSA140,0387.96%
301La Crosse-Onalaska, WI-MN MSA139,6274.46%
302Wheeling, WV-OH MSA139,513-5.70%
303Rapid City, SD MSA139,07410.04%
304Napa, CA MSA138,0191.12%
305Sumter, SC MSA136,700-4.02%
306Springfield, OH MSA136,001-1.69%
307Harrisonburg, VA MSA135,5718.26%
308Sherman-Denison, TX MSA135,54312.13%
309Battle Creek, MI MSA134,310-1.35%
310Jonesboro, AR MSA134,19610.88%
311Manhattan, KS MSA134,0465.48%
312Bismarck, ND MSA133,62620.79%
313Johnstown, PA MSA133,472-7.10%
314Carbondale-Marion, IL MSA133,435-4.11%
315Hammond, LA MSA133,1579.96%
316The Villages, FL MSA129,75238.89%
317Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA MSA129,52310.80%
318Pittsfield, MA MSA129,026-1.67%
319Albany-Lebanon, OR MSA128,61010.23%
320Glens Falls, NY MSA127,039-1.46%
321Lawton, OK MSA126,652-2.79%
322Cleveland, TN MSA126,1648.96%
323Sierra Vista-Douglas, AZ MSA125,447-4.49%
324Staunton, VA MSA125,4335.85%
325Ames, IA MSA125,2528.12%
326Mansfield, OH MSA124,9360.37%
327San Angelo, TX MSA122,8888.78%
328Altoona, PA MSA122,822-3.36%
329New Bern, NC MSA122,168-3.65%
330Wenatchee, WA MSA122,01210.04%
331Farmington, NM MSA121,661-6.45%
332Owensboro, KY MSA121,5595.93%
333St. Joseph, MO-KS MSA121,467-4.60%
334San Germán, PR Metropolitan Statistical Area120,280-12.50%
335Lawrence, KS MSA118,7857.18%
336Sheboygan, WI MSA118,0342.19%
337Missoula, MT MSA117,9227.89%
338Goldsboro, NC MSA117,333-4.31%
339Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH MSA116,903-6.07%
340Watertown-Fort Drum, NY MSA116,7210.42%
341Anniston-Oxford, AL MSA116,441-1.80%
342Beckley, WV MSA115,079-7.86%
343Twin Falls, ID MSA114,28314.74%
344Williamsport, PA MSA114,188-1.66%
345California-Lexington Park, MD MSA113,7778.20%
346Brunswick, GA MSA113,4951.00%
347Michigan City-La Porte, IN MSA112,4170.85%
348Muncie, IN MSA111,903-4.90%
349Lewiston-Auburn, ME MSA111,1393.19%
350Longview, WA MSA110,7308.12%
351Kankakee, IL MSA107,502-5.24%
352Ithaca, NY MSA105,7404.11%
353Grand Forks, ND-MN MSA104,3625.99%
354Fond du Lac, WI MSA104,1542.48%
355Decatur, IL MSA103,998-6.11%
356Bay City, MI MSA103,856-3.63%
357Gettysburg, PA MSA103,8522.41%
358Mankato, MN MSA103,5667.06%
359Gadsden, AL MSA103,436-0.95%
360Lima, OH MSA102,206-3.88%
361Sebring-Avon Park, FL MSA101,2352.48%
362Cheyenne, WY MSA100,5129.56%
363Hot Springs, AR MSA100,1804.33%
364Dubuque, IA MSA99,2665.99%
365Rome, GA MSA98,5842.35%
366Victoria, TX MSA98,3314.60%
367Cape Girardeau, MO-IL MSA97,5171.29%
368Fairbanks, AK MSA95,655-1.97%
369Ocean City, NJ MSA95,263-2.06%
370Corvallis, OR MSA95,18411.22%
371Cumberland, MD-WV MSA95,044-7.99%
372Pocatello, ID MSA94,8964.68%
373Mayagüez, PR Metropolitan Statistical Area93,412-19.62%
374Parkersburg-Vienna, WV MSA89,490-3.43%
375Grants Pass, OR MSA88,0906.50%
376Pine Bluff, AR MSA87,751-12.47%
377Great Falls, MT MSA84,4143.80%
378Elmira, NY MSA84,148-5.27%
379Yauco, PR Metropolitan Statistical Area84,112-21.63%
380Kokomo, IN MSA83,6581.09%
381Midland, MI MSA83,494-0.16%
382Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA MSA82,863-3.15%
383Columbus, IN MSA82,2087.05%
384Hinesville, GA MSA81,4244.50%
385Casper, WY MSA79,9555.97%
386Grand Island, NE MSA77,0385.93%
387Danville, IL MSA74,188-9.11%
388Guayama, PR Metropolitan Statistical Area72,240-14.22%
389Lewiston, ID-WA MSA64,3755.73%
390Enid, OK MSA62,8463.74%
391Walla Walla, WA MSA62,5846.47%
392Carson City, NV MSA58,6396.09%

From Metro to Micro

The wide variety of population patterns around the country can make it tricky to divide regions up into uniform units. There are two main divisions to consider when viewing this map:

  1. Metropolitan Areas (metro areas) have at least one urban core area of at least 50,000 population. These are the largest population centers, sometimes encompassing many counties. In some instances, these metro areas are further subdivided into Metropolitan Divisions.
  2. Micropolitan Areas are the smallest areas measured on this map (indicated by a lighter shade of green). These smaller regions, which are generally located further away from large cities, have at least one urban core area of at least 10,000 but fewer than 50,000 people.

One thing to note about all of these definitions is that the cities in these regions must have significant ties to a neighboring region—usually in the form of commuting ties. This is what warrants binding adjacent counties into a measurable area.

Another unique layer of data on this map is the shading that indicates the actual urbanized area within metro areas. In the example of Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, it’s easy to see how urban sprawl has expanded the urban area into a number of neighboring counties.

With this context in mind, we’ll take a closer look at three points of interest on the map that show this concept at work with varying degrees of complexity.

Level One: The Central City

The Texas Triangle offers what is perhaps the most straightforward example of metro areas.

central texas metro areas

As seen above, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio anchor their respective regions, and surrounding counties are bundled into a metro area. The surrounding counties have all been identified as having ties to the central county, and, in some cases, the urban area has spread into the neighboring county over time.

Level Two: The City Cluster

The region anchored by Salt Lake City requires more thought to divide into statistical areas.

salt lake city metro area

While there are a number of population centers in the area, including Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden, they all have enough of an economic “magnetic pull” to warrant splitting the region into distinct statistical areas.

Of course, regions are always evolving, and occasionally these areas are updated. Salt Lake City and Ogden were previously combined into a single metro area, but were separated in 2005.

Level Three: The Megaregion

New York City is the ultimate challenge for planners looking to categorize population centers into a neat and tidy statistical box.

For one, the contiguous urban area is massive, stretching from the west side of Long Island out to the east side of New Jersey. In addition to New York City itself, the metro area includes 19 other municipalities with over 100,000 people.

Next, NYC is an unparalleled economic magnet. Measuring commuting activity is a challenge because a wide variety of people visit the city for so many different reasons. The interconnectedness of the Northeast Megaregion also adds to the complexity.

new york city metro area

New York-Newark-Jersey City is such a big pie to carve up, that four of the country’s 11 metro divisions (as indicated by the italicized text and dotted lines) occur in this one area.

Blurring the Lines

Population patterns are constantly changing across the country, so the next version of this map may have a number of changes on it. Our “straightforward” Texas Triangle example may become tougher to divide up as the population boom continues in the region.

Here’s how the population of U.S. countries changed over the past decade:

population change U.S. 2010-2020

Further complicating matters is the rapid move to remote work and distributed teams. A key element of these census divisions are commuting ties. With work increasingly not bound by geographic limitations, it remains unclear how that trend will impact this type of statistical exercise in the future.

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