Micropolitan Areas and (Counter) Urbanization Processes in the US

By Alexander Vias.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Despite representing almost a quarter of all counties in the US, and 10% of the US population, micropolitan areas have attracted only a limited amount of attention from scholars. These new county-level statistical areas with an urban-center population ranging between 10,000 and 50,000, are part of the new Core-Based Statistical Area (CBSA) system used by scholars and policymakers alike. Situated between large metropolitan areas with big cities and rural non-CBSA areas, micropolitan areas embody many of the tensions found in the US urban hierarchy. That is because micropolitan areas sit at the nexus of two opposing forces of change in the US—between urbanization and migration up the urban hierarchy, and counterurbanization processes and migration down the urban hierarchy. In this paper I outline the origin and nature of micropolitan areas, and the significant role they play in migration processes. I also present a conceptual model that helps illustrate the variety of processes at work in micropolitan areas, and argue that an in-depth study of these overlooked and understudied areas can highlight many of the most prominent forces shaping the social, demographic and economic structure of the US today.

Keywords: Micropolitan Areas, Urbanization, Counterurbanization, Migration

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.115-126. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 882.362KB).

Alexander Vias

Associate Professor and Coordinator, Urban and Community Studies Program, Geography Department, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA

Alexander Vias is a population/economic geographer, with a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Before assuming his current position at the University of Connecticut, he was a faculty member at the University of Northern Colorado. His research interests include interstate migration, urban/regional growth and development, and changes in the urban system of the US.