5 Californian cities would lose their status as “metropolises”

Five places in California are among those that would lose their status as metropolitan statistical areas under a federal proposal.

The plan would increase the population minimum for the designation from 50,000 to 100,000, removing 144 areas nationwide from the list.

It’s more than a matter of semantics. Officials in some of the affected cities fear the change will negatively impact federal funding and economic development.

Ten members of Congress — all but one from Midwestern states — sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget opposing the plan because of what they called “the potential to harm communities.”

The five current MSAs in California that would drop off the list are:

  • Chico (98,176 inhabitants)
  • Hanford/Corcoran (87,941)
  • Napa (83,913)
  • Madeira (78,413)
  • San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles (59,219)

Chico would be one of the largest metro areas to lose status — although Twin Falls, Idaho has just 13 people under the cutoff.

Cities formerly designated as metros with core populations between 50,000 and 100,000 would be reclassified as “micropolitan” statistical areas, a designation that currently applies to areas with populations between 10,000 and 50,000.

California now has 24 metropolitan areas and eight micropolitan areas.

A committee of representatives from federal statistical agencies made the recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget, saying it is for statistical purposes only and should not be used for funding formulas. In practice, however, this is how it is often used.

Several Medicare housing, transportation and reimbursement programs are tied to communities being metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, so the redesignation affects some city officials.

Statisticians say the change in designations was a long time coming, given that the US population has more than doubled since 1950. Back then, about half of US residents lived in metros; now 86% do.

“In the 1950s, the population needed to create a metropolitan area was different from what it would be to create a metropolitan area in 2020,” said Rob Santos, president of the American Statistical Association.

Nancy Potok, a former chief statistician with the Office of Management and Budget who helped develop the new recommendations, acknowledged that officials in some cities would be upset with the changes because they believe it could hurt efforts to attract jobs or businesses to their communities.

“There are winners and losers when you change these designations,” Potok said. “A typical complaint comes from economic development when trying to attract investment. You mean you are part of a dynamic MSA. There is a perception associated with it. If your region is excluded from an MSA, you feel disadvantaged. »

Bernard P. Love