The Midsized Metros

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Michael Cain
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    According to Wikipedia there are 135 metropolitan statistical areas with population >250,000 and <1,000,000. Looking through the list of such MSAs in the western states, there are only a few that are not part of a much bigger consolidated statistical area* (Boise is one such). This is an under-appreciated fact about the contemporary West — a very large majority of the population lives in a handful of big population centers. The West now has the highest percentage of non-rural population of the four Census Bureau regions, slightly ahead of the Northeast. So far as I could tell by quick scan, all of the isolated mid-sized metro areas in the West fall into the Boise condition of struggling to manage their growth. Very much a regional sort of problem.

    * The map included in the article is at least somewhat misleading. Consider Colorado — the map separates out Fort Collins on the north and Colorado Springs on the south. Both, though, are part of the nearly contiguous Front Range urban corridor — 120 miles from north to south and 20 miles from east to west and 80% of the state’s population lives there. The Wasatch Front in Utah is very similar.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain
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      And the Puget Sound area, and the Bay Area, and LA/SD, etc.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Michael Cain
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      A slightly different take on (IMO) the same problem… In December the Census Bureau released its most recent forecast for 2020 population by state and people have applied the US House seat allocation formula to the results. The extended Rust Belt is on pace to lose seven or eight seats. This time it works out that New York — home to the most elite of the elite coastal cities — would lose two seats.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Michael Cain
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      The article is about the mid-sized, obviously, but it’s not just those where you see a pretty big divide. Cities with fewer than 250k are below the tipping point of success in most of the country and therefore are struggling, but in Montana and Idaho and elsewhere they’re actually where a lot of the growth is.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Will Truman
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        Yeah, the interior cluster of roughly Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas are very much their own thing. The other day I was looking at some population figures and noticed the disparity between Colorado and Wyoming, despite their sharing a long border. In the last ten years, Colorado added more people than the total population of Wyoming.

        Most of that growth was in the Front Range urban corridor, of course. There’s going to be a lot of unhappiness in rural Colorado when district drawing happens after the next census — the Front Range suburbs will get the new US House district, and there will be a pronounced shift in state legislature membership from rural areas to the ‘burbs.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Michael Cain
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          While it’s most pronounced in Idaho and Montana et al, I think it’s really just most of the west. I think if you look at the mid-size metros and small cities in other states, you don’t have the sort of problems associated with their eastern counterparts: Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Eugene, Corvallis, Spokane, St George, etc. There are some that are kind of stalled, but even they’re not Toledo for the most part.

          I would be interested to see where the cutoff is between towns that are endangered and those that are still growing. I suspect it’s a lot lower in the west than the east more generally. Or maybe it’s just the northeast with the midsize metros in the South doing okay too.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Will Truman
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            My slow-motion historical research effort suggests a range of interacting things for the East vs West differences: mountains; arid and semi-arid climate; original settlement patterns; transportation evolution; when the big growth occurred; the scale of federal investment relative to the population during and after WWII; the size of the black minority population; how bad the urban population crash was in the 60s and 70s, and whether it recovered promptly; the California Diaspora that started 30 years ago.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Portland (Oregon), and Seattle are mid-sized metros.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      But not according to the definition used in the article, which is MSA or CSA. All of the cities you listed (plus Denver and Las Vegas and Salt Lake City (which is actually less than 250,000 people)) are embedded in thriving multi-million person MSAs and CSAs. Isolated MSAs in this size range — particularly any that might be characterized as struggling — are very largely an extended Rust Belt and interior South thing.Report

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