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Q:  

What were the MSAs the Census Bureau used in the 1990 census? There is some ambiguity as to what the definitions of MSAs were for publications and tables that came out of the 1990 census.

A:  

Here’s a link to historical metropolitan area definitions:

http://www.census.gov/population/metro/files/lists/historical/99mfips.txt

The June 30, 1990 standards are what 1990 census publications are based on. In 1993, OMB developed new standards but by that time all the census publications were already produced.

When a published report shows that a city like Chicago gains or loses population, sometimes this is due to different definitions of the metropolitan area – not a real gain or loss in the population based on constant geographic units.

For 2000, publications are based on the June 30, 1999 definitions. There’s been a pretty significant change in metropolitan area definitions since then. Here are the new standards:

http://www.census.gov/population/www/metroareas/lists/2009/List1.txt.

Bill Frey of PSC has a pretty good summary of metropolitan definitions:

http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/dis/census/freybrookings.pdf.

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