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Metropolitan area (FIPS code)


For a list of metropolitan areas identified and the corresponding codes, consult the links below for the appropriate time period. Note that some metropolitan areas are not available in all months of a time period.

1962 (ASEC)
1963-1967 (ASEC)
1968-1972 (ASEC)
1973-1975 (ASEC)
1976 (ASEC)
1977-1985 (ASEC)
1986-1987 (ASEC)
1988-March, 1995
September 1995 - April 2004
May 2004 - April 2014
May 2014 onward

99998 = Unidentified or nonmetropolitan
99999 = Missing data


METFIPS gives the original (unrecoded) CPS codes for the respondent's metropolitan area of residence. A metropolitan area, or metro area, is a region consisting of a large urban core together with surrounding communities that have a high degree of economic and social integration with the urban core. Metro areas are defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which occasionally makes significant changes to its protocols and regularly revises the delineations of metro areas to reflect current population distributions and commuting flows. Metro areas can cross state lines, and they are county-based except in New England. (Prior to the institution of the 2003 OMB protocols, metro areas in New England were based on towns and cities. Now all official metro areas are county-based, but the CPS continues to use special town-based definitions for New England, which the OMB calls New England City and Town Areas, or NECTAs.)

See also (METRO), which identifies whether a household resided in a metro area and specifically whether it resided in a central/principal city of a metro area. For 1962-2022 samples, IPUMS CPS includes a separate variable, METAREA, which aimed to apply a consistent coding scheme across all samples based on the FIPS codes in use with the 1990 census. As explained in that variable's description, it is not altogether possible to maintain both consistency and comparability, and the complications of maintaining that approach have led both IPUMS USA and CPS to discontinue updates to their METAREA variables.

METFIPS information was added to the ASEC CPS data by the Census Bureau, not collected from respondents.

Not all metropolitan areas are identified: see under "Codes" for more information. Note also that some component counties are not included in the CPS sample of households in certain metropolitan areas. See the "Specific Metropolitan Identifiers" Appendix of the appropriate month's technical documentation for more information on whether a specific metropolitan area sample has excluded components. For more information on the definitions and components of metropolitan areas over time, see the Census Bureau website; for the current metropolitan area definitions, see here.

Note that the Census Bureau warns: "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."


Definitions of metropolitan areas as well as codes change over time. Prior to 1977, the code scheme used is CPS-specific. After 1977, the code scheme is the metropolitan area's FIPS code. Starting May 2004, New England metropolitan areas are defined using New England City and Town Area (NECTA) definitions. The codes for these areas correspond to NECTA codes, not to the metropolitan area (CBSA) FIPS code. See under the "Codes" tab for more details on the specific codes over time.

In January 2023, the Census Bureau made a significant change to the way confidentiality is protected for individuals in small geographic areas. Geography is now partially synthesized for areas with a population below the threshold of 100,000. This change will be phased in as new respondents enter the CPS, beginning with month-in-sample 1 in January 2023. These changes affect the following geographic variables: METFIPS, COUNTY, METRO, INDIVIDCC, and CBSASZ. For more information, see the Census Bureau's 2023 Current Population Survey User Note.


  • All households and group quarters.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1962 – 1988 - - X - - - - - - - - - -
1989 – 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 – 2023 X X X X X X X X X X X X X
2024 X X - X X - - - - - - - -


This variable has no flags.