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Proposed changes to MSA standards creating concern

March 11, 2021

In January, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) posted a request for public comment on the recommendations it has received from the Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area Standards Review Committee for changes to metropolitan and micropolitan statistical area standards. The 123 comments that have been recorded to date reflect a level of concern regarding changing the population threshold for urban areas and the impact on future funding that would have for these areas.

Currently, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) must contain a Census Bureau-delineated urban area with a population of 50,000 or more, while a micropolitan statistical area must contain a Census Bureau-delineated urban area with a population of 10,000 to 49,999. The review committee has recommended that the population level to qualify as a metropolitan statistical area should be increased from 50,000 to 100,000.

OMB notes that it “establishes and maintains these areas solely for statistical purposes. In reviewing and revising these areas, OMB does not take into account or attempt to anticipate any public or private sector nonstatistical uses that may be made of the delineations. These areas are not designed to serve as a general-purpose geographic framework applicable for nonstatistical activities or for use in program funding formulas.” However, many of the comments received thus far speak directly to a concern about how such a change could affect federal funding for local governments.

In addition to the publicly posted comments, there is a campaign underway to urge OMB to delay redefining the standards and asking for a holistic review of the changes to the definition. The current comment period closes March 19.

policy, urban, rural