10 U.S. City Clusters
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, on July 1, 2016 (i.e., the latest date for which data is available), there were 54 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in America with populations of one million or more each.
The 54 MSAs appear in accompanying Table 1 and they include San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Honolulu, Tulsa and Fresno, each with populations of between 980,000 and 999,000, did not quite make the cut.
The boundary for an MSA encompasses an urban core plus suburbs for which there are close back-and-forth home-to-workplace commuting ties.
Table 1 ranks the 54 MSAs in three ways: (1) according to population level; (2) by year-over-year nominal change in population level; and (3) percentage change in population, July 1, 2016 versus July 1, 2015.
There are few surprises in the left one-third of Table 1, with New York (20.2 million) and Los Angeles (13.3 million) being the dominant population centers in the country.
Chicago (9.5 million) has been falling off the pace and will soon be challenged by Dallas-Ft. Worth (7.2 million). This is made clear by the middle section of Table 1.
Dallas-Ft. Worth has been leading all U.S. MSAs with respect to year-over-year nominal increase in population, an outsized +143,000 between July 2015 and July 2016. Runner-up Houston hasn’t been far behind with a +125,000 increase in resident count.
Among the Top 10 cities for nominal population increase, three are in Texas and three in Florida. Rounding out the Texas contingent is Austin (+58,000) and Florida’s representatives are: Miami (+65,0000); Tampa (+61,000); and Orlando (+59,000).
Phoenix (+94,000), Atlanta (+91,000), Seattle (+72,000) and Washington D.C. (+54,000) are the four cities outside Texas and Florida that are among the Top 10 for year-over-year increases in nominal population.
Chicago (-19,600), on the other hand, has been experiencing a population contraction. Other cities where the population count has been moving in reverse are: San Juan (-38,100); Pittsburgh (-9,000); Cleveland (-4,300); and Hartford (-3,100).
The final third of Table 1, on the right-hand side, ranks MSAs according to year-over-year percentage change in population. Again, cities in Texas and Florida are among the standouts.
All four major cities in Texas are in the Top Dozen for percent change year over year: Austin (+2.9%); Dallas-Ft. Worth (+2.0%); San Antonio (also +2.0%); and Houston (+1.9%).
There are three Florida cities in the Top Dozen, but this time Jacksonville (+2.1%) in fifth spot is handily ahead of Miami (+1.1%), which appears considerably further, in position number 22.
Orlando (+2.5%) and Tampa (+2.1%) are the other Florida cities in the Top Dozen ranking for year-over-year percentage change in population.
The state of North Carolina also shows well, with Raleigh (+2.5%) and Charlotte (+2.0%) ranking 3rd and 8th respectively.
Las Vegas (+2.2%), Phoenix (+2.1%) and Nashville (+2.0%) are the other leaders in the Top Dozen.
July 1, 2016
Jul 2016/Jul 2015
Jul 2016/Jul 2015
|1||New York||20,153,634||1||Dallas-Fort Worth||143,435||1||Austin||2.9%|
|4||Dallas-Fort Worth||7,233,323||4||Atlanta||90,650||4||Las Vegas||2.2%|
|11||San Francisco||4,679,166||11||Riverside||52,400||11||San Antonio||2.0%|
|16||Minneapolis-St. Paul||3,551,036||16||Los Angeles||41,619||16||Denver||1.6%|
|17||San Diego||3,317,749||17||Portland||40,148||17||Salt Lake City||1.6%|
|20||St. Louis||2,807,002||20||New York||35,571||20||Riverside||1.2%|
|28||Cincinnati||2,165,139||28||Kansas City||20,045||28||Grand Rapids||0.8%|
|29||San Juan||2,157,729||29||Salt Lake City||18,686||29||San Diego||0.8%|
|30||Las Vegas||2,155,664||30||Indianapolis||17,688||30||San Francisco||0.8%|
|31||Kansas City||2,104,509||31||Oklahoma City||16,246||31||Tucson||0.8%|
|35||Indianapolis||2,004,230||35||Grand Rapids||8,762||35||New Orleans||0.5%|
|36||San Jose||1,978,816||36||Philadelphia||8,197||36||San Jose||0.5%|
|38||Virginia Beach||1,726,907||38||New Orleans||6,812||38||Baltimore||0.2%|
|41||Jacksonville||1,478,212||41||Virginia Beach||3,439||41||Virginia Beach||0.2%|
|46||Richmond||1,281,708||46||St. Louis||(1,328)||46||St. Louis||0.0%|
|49||Salt Lake City||1,186,187||49||Buffalo||(2,675)||49||Chicago||-0.2%|
|54||Tucson||1,016,206||54||San Juan||(38,144)||54||San Juan||-1.7%|
Besides its MSA designation, the Census Bureau also has a city category entitled Combined Statistical Area, or CSA.
MSAs already include some ‘combined’ statistical areas, − for example when there are twin cities, such as Dallas-Fort Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul. But CSAs go a step further. They unite urban centers which have such a degree of proximity, they may even fall within a single media market.
San Francisco-San Jose and Washington-Baltimore are CSAs.
In anticipation of the additional population change that is coming over the next decade or so, the following takes the notion of ‘combined’ MSAs even further.
Employing the web-site www.distancefromto.net, I’ve linked together those MSAs where the separation from one to the next is 100 miles or less. The distance measurement is ‘as the crow flies’ between downtown cores.
One hundred miles is an admittedly arbitrary figure, but it’s not much of a jaunt by car and leaving the outskirts of one urban area will quickly lead into the perimeter of the other. (When the near-by cities are quite large, the differential space between borders may all but disappear.)
This exercise has yielded ten clusters. Sometimes the MSAs are lined up in a string. Sometimes, they are mildly scattered. But always, in what appears below, there is a gap of only one hundred miles or less between two of the MSAs in the cluster.
It should also be noted that I’ve only added up MSAs having populations of one million or more each. There may be other nearby MSAs with populations of less than one million that have not been included in the ‘combined’ or ‘clustered’ calculations.
- New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington: These four MSAs tie together the financial capital of New York with the country’s center of politics, Washington, D.C. The summation of the four MSA population levels is 35.2 million. The latest year-over-year increase in population for these four MSAs was +0.3%, amounting to +102,000 individuals.
- Boston-Providence-Hartford-New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington-Richmond-Virginia Beach: While the four cities in the preceding ‘bullet-point’ are one obvious grouping, it’s amazingly true that there are nine cities along America’s population-dense East Coast where the size of the hopscotch-skip from the extremity at the north (Boston) down to the far reach at the south (Virginia Beach) is never more than 100 miles. The population size of this combined-MSA-megalopolis in the middle of last year was 45.8 million. It was growing at +0.3% annually, or +144,000 individuals per year.
- Los Angeles-Inland Empire-San Diego: Riverside, San Bernardino and the municipality of Ontario, California, comprise the Inland Empire. This three-MSA grouping had a population of 12.2 million on July 1, 2016. It was growing at a rate of +0.6% per year, or +122,000 people annually.
- Chicago-Milwaukee: The two MSAs along western Lake Michigan’s shoreline totaled 11.1 million people in mid-2016, but the direction of change was downwards, -0.2% annually and -21,000 in nominal terms.
- San Francisco-Oakland-Sacramento-San Jose: This ultra-high-tech zone, in July 2016, contained a population of 9.0 million that was increasing at a rate of +0.9% annually, or +76,000 in nominal terms.
- Columbus-Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Louisville: This 100-miles-or-less grouping of MSAs may be the most diverse of all. Nevertheless, it yielded a summed population of 7.5 million in mid-2016, which was +0.7% higher than in mid-2015. In resident-terms, that was +55,000.
- Phoenix-Tucson: The combined population of these two MSAs was 5.7 million in mid-2016. More notable, though, was the speedy population growth rate, +1.8% annually, which amounted to +102,000 more residents per year.
- Tampa-Orlando: At 5.5 million, this was another relatively smaller population grouping in mid-2016. But at +2.2% annually, or +120,000 residents annually, the rate of population increase was remarkable. (By the way, neither Jacksonville nor Miami is within 100 miles of Tampa-Orlando.)
- San Antonio-Austin: This two-city entity is like Tampa-Orlando, in that two big urban centers – in this instance, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston − are close by, but not quite within 100 miles. The combined population of San Antonio-Austin was 4.9 million in July 2016. The rate of population growth, though, was a stunning +2.4% annually, or +106,000 individuals.
- Buffalo-Rochester: At 2.2 million people on July 1, 2016, this was the tiniest of the ten clusters. Furthermore, it was suffering from an exodus of -0.2% per year, or -5,100 individuals.
Pittsburgh and Cleveland are separated by 115 miles and didn’t quite make the list as a ‘cluster’.
Population levels and degrees of change are key drivers of construction activity in local markets.
As a final note, the annual population change for the entire U.S. is currently +0.7% per year, which amounts to +2.0 million people – or the equivalent of two new MSAs of one million each.
Two new MSAs of one million each means the need for a whole lot of new construction every year.