Guest blog post by Steve Landefeld, Director of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Off the top of your head, it probably seems obvious that the economies of America’s major cities differ structurally and behaviorally from our nation’s nonmetropolitan and rural areas, right? You are correct, indeed! But the really interesting question is, What can you learn about this from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis? BEA measures our regional economies in several ways, including GDP by State, GDP by Metropolitan Area, State Personal Income, Metropolitan Area Personal Income and County Personal Income (AKA: Local Area Personal Income).
To understand the differences between the big, metropolitan areas and the rural parts of the country, your best bet is to turn to BEA’s Local Area Personal Income which details earnings in all 3,143 counties in the U.S.
Technically speaking, nonmetropolitan counties are those that are not part of a metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget. Population in these counties is generally less than 50,000 people. There are 2,032 nonmetropolitan counties in the U.S., almost twice the number of metropolitan counties. Of course, not all nonmetropolitan areas are rural, nor are all rural areas excluded from official designated metropolitan areas. Another important consideration is commuting patterns, certainly plenty of Americans live in areas which may be rural, but drive into MSAs to work which intertwines these economies. (What, you thought we’d make it that easy?)