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Metropolitan central city status

Codes and Frequencies

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METRO indicates whether a household was located in a metropolitan area. For households within metropolitan areas, METRO specifies whether the housing unit was inside or outside the central city of the metropolitan area. Information on metropolitan status was added by the Census Bureau, rather than being directly collected from respondents.


For 1962 to 1976, households in metropolitan areas were classified dichotomously as "in the central city" and "not in the central city." For 1977 onward, IPUMS-CPS added an additional code, "in metropolitan area, central city status unknown." In addition, confidentiality requirements led to some households being classified as "not identifiable" in the METRO variable.

Metro is unavailable in the June, July, and August 1995 basic monthly sample data. In earlier basic monthly samples, METRO is unavailable in January, April, May, June, October, and November 1976 data, as well as July, August, and September 1985 samples.

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.

Comparability with IPUMS-USA

Changes in the definition of metropolitan area in the METRO variable in IPUMS-CPS follow changes in the census definition of metropolitan areas. However, the changes that happened in the 2012 ACS (use of the 2013 OMB metro area classifications) did not occur in the CPS until 2015. The METRO variable is largely comparable in the IPUMS census and ACS samples and IPUMS-CPS.


  • All households and group quarters.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1962 – 1975 - - X - - - - - - - - - -
1976 - X X X - - - X X X - - X
1977 – 1984 X X X X X X X X X X X X X
1985 X X X X X X X - - - X X X
1986 – 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 – 2022 X X X X X X X X X X X X X
2023 X X X X X X X X X X X - -


This variable has no flags.