Western Governors earn victory as OMB leaves population thresholds in place for MSAs

Western Governors earned a victory when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) walked back a proposal to increase the population threshold for metropolitan statistical area (MSAs) from cities with a population of 50,000 or more to cities with a population of 100,000 or more. The OMB decision ensures that communities in the West will continue to have access to the data and resources they count on to support their economic development.

The MSA designation was created to standardize the units of geography for which different federal agencies produce and analyze data. One way that MSAs are widely used is to delineate urban and rural America.

When OMB proposed raising the population threshold to 100,000, the Governors raised their concerns in outreach during March 2021. They asserted the change could have unintended consequences for dozens of western MSAs that would lose their status and for rural communities, since federal agencies allocate funding based on MSA designation or make funding for rural entities available to all non-MSA communities. Additionally, some federal datasets, including employment and labor statistics, are only produced at the MSA level.

OMB announced on July 13, 2021 that after “soliciting public comment on recommendations for the 2020 update from a technical advisory committee of interagency experts, known as Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area Standards Review Committee,” and a public comment period, the “Committee submitted a revised recommendation to leave the current Metropolitan Statistical Areas core population threshold in place.”

Read the Governors’ outreach.

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