Metropolitanizing Nonmetro Space: Population Redistribution and Emergent Metropolitan Areas, 1965-90

Elliott, James R., and Marc J. Perry
Working paper no. 1996-02


The recent volatility of population redistribution trends in the U.S. continues to stimulate the demographic imagination. This research sheds new light on this subject through an examination of newly designated metro areas, which collectively constitute the largest source of national metropolitan growth in two of the past three decades. Results show that over this period new metro areas have consistently drawn the majority of migrants from inter-state exchanges with existing metro territory and that these exchanges are greatest from census divisions that achieved metropolitan dominance prior to 1920. Employment data also reveal a strong positive association between FIRE activities and net in-migration. Together, these findings suggest that traditional processes of urban concentration, while present, now play a secondary role in the development of new metro centers, thus challenging conventional theories of metropolitanization where we might most expect them to apply.