Moving to the Burbs

Urban areas might be losing their allure, as this article from New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

“The years to come seem likely to see America’s historic population dispersion continue or accelerate, as pandemic and lockdown worries have severely reduced the attractiveness of dense urban cores (especially in the highest density areas, such as New York City). As a result, the sparsely populated outer areas of combined statistical areas (CSAs), the largest category of local labor market defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), could be the destination of many former urban core households.

“This article examines the 105 largest labor markets (CSAs and uncombined metropolitan areas) with more than 500,000 population, as of 2019.

“Labor Markets (Statistical Areas)

“Collectively, OMB labor markets are called “statistical areas.” They are defined in their entirety by whole counties and by commuting patterns between those counties. CSAs have received considerably less attention in the media than metropolitan and micropolitan areas. Since the early 2000s redefinition of metropolitan areas, “combined statistical areas” (CSAs) have received considerably less attention than the geographically smaller metropolitan and micropolitan areas (a more complete description is the Labor Market Note).

“These 105 CSA/MSAs had 257 million residents, more than three-quarters (78%) of the nation’s 328 million residents in 2019.

“While CSA/MSAs have much of the nation’s population, they are far more rural than urban. All of the largest 105 have more rural than urban land (developed or built-up urban land). According to 2010 Census data, Overall, CSA/MSAs were 89.5% rural and only 11.5% urban (Figure 1). The rural and urban land is shown for the 10 largest CSAs in Figure 2. By comparison, 97% of the nation’s land area was rural and only 3.0% urban, according to the 2010 Census.

“Only seven CSA/MSAs have more than 30% urban land. These include Tampa-St. Petersburg (45%), New York (42%), Boston (38%), Hartford (37%), Honolulu (36%), Philadelphia (35%), Detroit (31%). The two CSAs with the smallest urban land area are Boise (1%) and Las Vegas (2%).

“Largest CSAs

“The 105 largest CSA/MSAs are shown in the Table at the end of the article, along with their populations and the extent of their rural land areas. The two largest CSA’s are above the 10 million criteria that defines megacities (New York and Los Angeles).

“The New York CSA continues to be the largest. With 22.6 million residents, the New York CSA includes not only the New York MSA, but another seven metropolitan areas, extending more than 200 miles both north to south and east to west. Its 12,400 square mile land area is greater than that of 9 states.

“Los Angeles is the second largest CSA, with 18.7 million residents. Its 34,000 square miles is nearly as large as Indiana. Yet, only 10% of its land area is urban.

“Chicago ranks third, with 9.8 million residents. However, it is experiencing modest population losses and may not ever achieve megacity status unless further dispersion of commuting patterns includes additional counties in the CSA. The Chicago CSA has 27% of its land in urban uses.

“The Washington-Baltimore CSA is the fourth largest, also with 9.8 million residents. At its present population growth rate, Washington-Baltimore should reach 10 million residents in the next five years. Approximately 23% of its land is urban.

“The San Jose-San Francisco (Bay Area) CSA includes the San Jose MSA and the San Francisco MSA as well as seven additional smaller metropolitan areas. The Bay Area MSA stretches more than 200 miles north to south. Only 14% of the Bay Area CSA land is urban. Like Washington-Baltimore the Bay Area CSA should reach 10 million residents in the next five years.

“CSAs: An Opportunity for Lower Density Living

“Commuting patterns have changed considerably in response to efforts to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Stanford University research indicates that 42% of the workforce is now working from home, generally working on-line and participating in work activities by on-line meetings (such as “Zoom”). This is eight times the number of workers who reported working at home as their principal commuting mode in the 2018 American Community Survey (Figure 3).”

Retrieved Julu17, 2020 from

Be well everyone!

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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