Most people lived in incorporated places.
There were 19,450 incorporated places in the United States as of January 1, 2003. These places included more than 175 million people – just over 60 percent of the total population of the United States in Census 2000 (Table 1). The majority of the incorporated place population (over 153 million, or about 88 percent) lived inside metropolitan statistical areas (Table 2). Nearly 14 million persons (about 8 percent of the incorporated place population) lived inside incorporated places located within micropolitan statistical areas. Almost 8 million persons lived inside incorporated places that were not located in any metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area (outside core-based statistical areas (CBSAs)). These persons accounted for less than 5 percent of the total incorporated place population (Table 2).
Most people living in metropolitan statistical areas lived in incorporated places.
About 66 percent of the metropolitan population lived inside incorporated places (Table 1). The majority of residents in many large metropolitan statistical areas lived in incorporated places, with a few noteworthy exceptions, including the Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston,1 Philadelphia, and Washington metropolitan statistical areas,2 where most residents lived in unincorporated areas (Table 3). The largest percentages of residents living inside incorporated places tended to be found in metropolitan statistical areas in the Midwest and West regions (Figs. 1 and 2). These included the Carson City, NV Metropolitan Statistical Area, which was completely incorporated, as well as the Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and San Francisco metropolitan statistical areas (Table 3).
Most people living in micropolitan statistical areas lived in unincorporated areas.
About 48 percent of the population inside micropolitan statistical areas lived in incorporated places, while about 52 percent lived in unincorporated areas (Table 1). Micropolitan statistical areas with the highest percentages of residents living in incorporated places tended to be located, again, in the Midwest and West (Figs. 1 and 2). These included the Butte-Silver Bow, MT and Juneau, AK areas, which were completely incorporated. Areas with the lowest percentages tended to be located in the Northeast and South regions. Noteworthy exceptions were the Hilo, Kahului-Wailuku, and Kapaa, HI; 3 Gardnerville Ranchos and Pahrump, NV; and Los Alamos, NM micropolitan statistical areas, which were completely unincorporated (Table 3).
Most people living outside CBSAs lived in unincorporated areas.
About 40 percent of the population outside CBSAs lived in incorporated places, while about 60 percent lived in unincorporated areas (Table 1). The largest incorporated places outside CBSAs included: Carroll, IA (pop. 10,098), and Baker, OR (pop. 9,896). 4 Of the 3,141 counties in the United States, 77 had no incorporated places. Of these, 35 were outside CBSAs.
Areas with large populations had more governmental units.
Metropolitan statistical areas with the highest numbers of governmental units tended to be located in the Northeast and Midwest, where most states have functioning MCDs (i.e., towns and townships). This is in contrast to areas in the South and West, where governmentally active MCDs are uncommon. Metro areas with large numbers of governmental units also tended to be large in population size (Table 4a). Four of the ten metro areas with the largest numbers of governmental units (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit) were also among the 10 most populous metro areas (Table 4b). Metro areas with larger populations, but relatively fewer governmental units, tended to be in the South and West. These included areas such as Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington (Table 4b). Smaller metro areas with relatively large numbers of governmental units, tended to be located in the Northeast and Midwest. The Duluth, MN area, for example, had 183 units of local government serving a population of 275,486 (Table 3).
Table 5 shows metro areas that had at least 100 governmental units, and that also had at least 40 percent of their population in unincorporated areas. Research has suggested that these areas may be susceptible to problems associated with urban sprawl, as the number of local governments presents a challenge for comprehensive, regional land use planning efforts. This is compounded by the paucity of local land use regulations in unincorporated areas, which can exacerbate the outward expansion of urban development (Carruthers, 2003). Areas where such conditions exist vary greatly in population size, ranging from about half a million (Harrisburg, PA), to more than 5 million (Philadelphia). With the exceptions of Atlanta and Washington, these areas are mainly located in the Northeast and Midwest, where many states have multilateral annexation policies that inhibit the ability of large cities to expand their boundaries (Rusk, 2006).