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Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)


A Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is a geographical region with a dense urban core and closely-linked adjacent territories that share high levels of social and economic integration. The Office of Management and Budget in the United States uses these areas for statistical purposes, including population census and economic data. An MSA must have a city with a population of at least 50,000 people.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)” would be:Metropolitan: /ˌmetrəˈpɑːlɪtən/Statistical: /stəˈtɪstɪkəl/Area: /ˈɛəriə/MSA: /ˌɛm ˌɛs ˈeɪ/

Key Takeaways

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  1. Definition: Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) are geographical regions with a relatively high population density at their core and close economic ties throughout the area. They typically consist of a core urban area and the surrounding counties with a high degree of social and economic integration with the core.
  2. Function: MSAs are primarily used for statistical tracking and reporting purposes. They provide a standardized method to measure the demographics, statistics, and trends of regions across the country, contributing to more accurate and comprehensive economic data.
  3. Determining Factors: The formation and boundaries of an MSA are primarily determined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) using population size, economic connection, and socio-cultural factors.



The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is a significant term in business and finance for several reasons. Firstly, it assists in the geographical organization and analysis of economic activity, population density, and demographic trends in various regions. These insights can be instrumental in driving both public and private sector decisions regarding infrastructure development, resource allocation, advertising campaigns, among others. Furthermore, MSAs serve as a focal point for gathering and examining data that help economists, policymakers, and businesses to predict economic growth trends and identify potential investment opportunities. Thus, the understanding of MSAs can influence strategic planning, market segmentation, and economic policy-making in powerful ways.


The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is a geographical region with a relatively high population density at its core and close economic ties throughout the area. These regions are not arbitrarily defined, but are set based on specific criteria such as population and economic interconnectedness set by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). However, MSAs are more than just an arbitrary designation; they serve multiple critical functions in both economic analysis and policy development.MSA is used extensively for statistical purposes by federal agencies, economists, urban planners, and businesses for analyzing economic conditions and identifying market potentials. For example, businesses use this information to decide where to open new stores, factories, or offices; real estate developers and city planners use it to identify where to develop new homes and infrastructure. It is also used in mass media to define radio and television broadcasting areas. Additionally, MSAs are used by the federal government in formulating fair and effective housing policies and in deciding the distribution of resources. Therefore, understanding MSAs is not just about understanding a definition—it’s about understanding how economies and communities function and grow.


1. New York-Newark-Jersey City MSA: This MSA is recognized as the most populous in the United States. It includes the five boroughs of New York City, several counties in New Jersey including Hudson and Bergen, and counties in Pennsylvania as well. This region is a hub of numerous key industries such as finance, media, entertainment, and technology.2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim MSA: In this MSA, you’ll find a massive entertainment industry, including Hollywood, the center of American cinema. It also includes diverse industries ranging from technology and oil refineries to international trade.3. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington MSA: This MSA is the economic and cultural hub of North Texas. It includes a mix of industries like technology, defense, financial services, and telecommunications. This region is home to several Fortune 500 companies and a diverse range of businesses.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)?

A Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is a geographical region with a relatively high population density at its core and close economic ties throughout the area. MSAs are defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and used by the Census Bureau and other federal agencies for statistical purposes.

How is an MSA defined?

An MSA is defined by the presence of an urban core with a population of 50,000 or more. It also includes the surrounding counties that have strong social and economic ties to the urban core.

How are MSAs used in finance and business?

MSAs are used in a variety of ways in finance and business. For example, they can be used to define housing markets, to determine appropriate compensation amounts for employees in different locations, and to compare the economic activity of different regions.

Can an area be part of more than one MSA?

An area cannot be part of more than one MSA. However, areas that do not qualify as MSAs can be part of Micropolitan Statistical Areas (population of 10,000 to 49,999) or Combined Statistical Areas (combination of adjacent metropolitan and micropolitan areas).

How often are MSAs updated?

MSA definitions are reviewed every ten years following the census. However, updates can be made in between censuses if there are significant changes in the area’s population or economic structure.

What is the difference between an MSA and a CSA (Combined Statistical Area)?

A Combined Statistical Area (CSA) is made up of adjacent MSAs and Micropolitan Statistical Areas that have a high degree of economic and social integration. A CSA can contain more than one MSA, whereas an MSA can only exist within one CSA.

Who uses the data from MSAs?

Data from MSAs is used by a variety of entities, including federal agencies, businesses, researchers, and non-profit organizations. This data can provide important insights into regional economic trends and demographic shifts.

Related Finance Terms

  • Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA)
  • Principal City
  • Census Tract
  • Urbanized Area (UA)
  • Nonmetropolitan Area

Sources for More Information

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