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Growth and decline in U.S. metropolitan population data


FRED has included a lot of population data over the years, and it now offers data specifically for U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs).

First, a couple of caveats: It makes sense to study population numbers as a percent change year over year; looking at raw numbers can be misleading because size and density matter on a map. Also keep in mind that MSA definitions change, especially after a decennial census but sometimes midway between censuses; so, values at these dates may reflect changes in population, definition, or both.

The GeoFRED map above shows 2018 U.S. Census Bureau data for the 383 MSAs: 295 of them grew and 88 shrank. The largest (proportional) growth was in Midland, TX, with 4.32% in a single year, followed by 3.78% in Myrtle Beach, SC/NC, and 3.52% in St. George, UT. The largest (proportional) decline was in Charleston, WV, with -1.57%, followed by -1.55% in Pine Bluff, AR, and -1.47% in Farmington, NM. In terms of raw numbers, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX, added over 130,000 residents in 2018 while Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-WI-IN, lost about 22,000.

The map makes it easy to see exactly where population is moving in and out: Blue areas are declining, and it’s quite clear they’re almost all in the Northeast and Midwest. Red areas are growing the most, mainly in Florida, the central U.S., and the West.

How this map was created: From GeoFRED, look for “Metropolitan Statistical Area,” then choose “Resident Population,” and select units “Percent Change from Year Ago.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.



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