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Metropolitan area size (PMSA/MSA)


This variable is not available for any of the currently selected samples.


MSACMSZ identifies the population size of the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or primary metropolitan statistical area (PMSA) in which the household is located.

Users should note that official definitions of metropolitan areas have changed over time. Please see the comparability tab for more details.

The Census Bureau publishes records of re-categorized or newly introduced metropolitan areas on its Historical Statistical Area Delineations page.


Between September 1995 and May 2004, and in 1988 to 1994 ASEC samples, the CPS population size data used the official metropolitan area definitions of the time, which consisted of three types of areas: metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), consolidated metropolitan statistical areas (CMSAs), and primary metropolitan statistical areas (PMSAs). MSAs are free-standing metropolitan areas, whereas CMSAs are made up of more than one PMSA. Any area within a CMSA also belongs to one of the PMSAs that makes up that particular CMSA.

According to these standards, Rochester, New York, is an MSA; its population passes the adequate population threshold, and it is not near another MSA with which it shares significant economic characteristics, or has inter-related commuting patterns. The New York City CMSA, however, has many component PMSAs, such as New York City itself, Newark, NJ, and Stamford, CT. These PMSAs each surpass the population threshold to be an identified PMSA, but they are also associated with the larger New York City CMSA.

During this period, the CPS provided a metropolitan area size in both MSA/CMSA and MSA/PMSA versions. MSAPMSZ identifies the population size of the household's MSA or PMSA.

Since May 2004, the IPUMS-CPS variable CBSASZ provides the metropolitan area size according to newer core based statistical area (CBSA) definitions, which are not consistently compatible with the older MSA/PMSA/CMSA concepts. The CBSA concept first came into use in 2003, but CPS only began using the definition for samples in May 2004.

The Census Bureau provides a number of resources describing in more detail the measurement of metropolitan statistical areas, including a Geographic Terms and Concepts factsheet, a Metropolitan and Micropolitan factsheet, and a chapter on Metropolitan Areas in the 1994 Geographic Areas Reference Manual.

Comparability with IPUMS-USA

For the classifications mentioned above in the variable description, IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-CPS are fully comparable. A final broad category, "State Unknown," appears in some IPUMS census samples but is used in only a small number of miscoded cases in the early years of IPUMS-CPS.


  • All households and group quarters.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1995 - - - - - - - - - X X X X
1996 – 2003 X X X X X X X X X X X X X
2004 X X X X X - - - - - - - -


This variable has no flags.

Unharmonized Variables