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Metropolitan area

Codes and Frequencies

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METAREA identifies the metropolitan area in which a household was located. Metropolitan areas are counties or groups of counties centering on a substantial urban area. While the Census Bureau's terminology for metropolitan areas and the classification of specific areas changes over time, the general concept is consistent: a metropolitan area consists of a large population center and adjacent communities that have a high degree of economic and social interaction. Metropolitan areas often cross state lines. See also (METRO), which specifies whether a housing unit was inside or outside the central city of a metropolitan area.

METAREA information was added to the ASEC CPS data by the Census Bureau, not collected from respondents. For 1962-1976, the Census Bureau coded the METAREA data using simple numbering (e.g., from 1 to 15) in the original ASEC CPS public use files. Beginning with the 1977 survey, the Census Bureau adopted standard FIPS codes for metropolitan areas. To maximize consistency between IPUMS-CPS and IPUMS-USA, IPUMS-CPS adopts the four-digit codes used in the 1990 census for METAREA. Along with the codes identifying specific cities, two general codes are used: 9998 (N/A, for households not in metropolitan areas), and 9997 (other metropolitan areas, not identified). The 9997 code applies to much of the metropolitan area population for years prior to the mid-1980s, when very few metropolitan areas were identified in the CPS data. For later years, the "not identified" code was used when geographic identification would have violated confidentiality requirements.

The Census Bureau warns that, "One set of estimates that can be produced from CPS microdata files should be treated with caution. These are estimates for individual metropolitan areas. Although estimates for the larger areas such as New York, Los Angeles, and so forth, should be fairly accurate and valid for a multitude of uses, estimates for the smaller metropolitan areas (those with populations under 500,000) should be used with caution because of the relatively large sampling variability associated with these estimates."


The number of metropolitan areas identified in the ASEC CPS increased over time: 15 in 1962-1967; 19 in 1968-1972; 35 in 1973-1976; 44 in 1977-1985; and over 200 beginning in 1986. Metropolitan area is not available in the June, July, and August basic monthly sample data in 1995.

IPUMS-CPS imposes standard codes for METAREA.

Beginning in May of 2014, the CPS CBSA codes were undergoing a shift from 2004 CBSA codes to 2013 CBSA codes. Some New England City and Town Areas (NECTA) have two codes to represent the same area in the original data. These codes have been integrated so that each NECTA is represented by one code.

IPUMS METAREAs 'Hickory-Morganton, NC' and 'Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir, NC' are labeled as 'Hickory-Morgantown, NC' and 'Hickory-Morgantown-Lenoir, NC' in original data provided by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. IPUMS has adjusted these labels to reflect the generally accepted spelling of Morganton, NC.

Comparability with IPUMS-USA

As noted, IPUMS-CPS adopts the coding system for METAREA that is used in IPUMS-USA. This coding system is based on the FIPS codes used in the 1990 census.


  • All households and group quarters.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1962 – 1993 - - X - - - - - - - - - -
1994 X X X X X X X X X X X X X
1995 X X X X X X - - - X X X X
1996 – 2016 X X X X X X X X X X X X X
2017 X X X X X X X X X X X - -


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