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Going to Kansas City, or is Kansas City Going to You?

March 6, 2013

By Jeff Pinkerton

Let’s take an imaginary road trip. We’ll start in Rockville, Mo., in the extreme southeast corner of Bates County, not terribly far Missouri’s lake country. From Rockville, we will travel mostly north and a little west until we get to White Cloud, Kan. White Cloud is in the extreme north part of Doniphan County, Kan., about two miles south of the Nebraska border.

Our trip will take more than three hours and cover some 180 miles. We will drive across two states, at least six different counties and dozens of cities. But, one thing we won’t do on this trip is ever leave the newly defined Kansas City Combined Statistical Area.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently released its new definitions of metropolitan statistical areas, micropolitan statistical areas and combined statistical areas.

Most people are familiar with the term Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). MSAs are defined as a region with a population of at least 50,000; a dense urban core; and surrounding areas that have strong ties to that core (typically in commuting patterns). Here, the Kansas City Metropolitan Area consists of 14 counties (five in Kansas and nine in Missouri).

Micropolitan Areas, as the name suggests, are just smaller areas (at least 10,000 people). The Atchison Micropolitan Area, Warrensburg Micropolitan Area and the newly defined Ottawa Micropolitan Area are local examples.

If these metro and micro areas meet and there is sufficient commuting between them, the OMB designates them as a Combined Statistical Area (CSA). Based on criteria established in conjunction with the Census Bureau, the OMB has recently designated the Kansas City CSA as now consisting of the Kansas City, Lawrence and St. Joseph metropolitan areas, as well as the aforementioned micropolitan areas (Atchison, Ottawa and Warrensburg). Incidentally, the Ottawa Micropolitan Area used to be a part of the Kansas City MSA.

Clear as mud?

Maybe the map below will help bring some clarity. You can click on the map to zoom in.

New CSA Map with Legend


This newly formed 22-county area is home to 2,362,693 people.  The table below has the 2011 figure for each county.

New CSA Table 2


So what does this change in designation mean? For your friendly neighborhood economists, it means we have a lot of maps and charts to update. For most of you the implications will be minimal, except that now you can drive for three hours and, at least by one definition, never leave home.

Haven’t had enough?  You can find all the details of how metropolitan, micropolitan and combined statistical areas are delineated and named here.



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