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Metropolitan-Statistical Madness
April 3, 2013 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Which of these two cities is bigger? The Census bureau has a quiz to see how well you know the relative sizes of the 64 largest metropolitan areas in the US, March Madness style.

More data visualizations from the Census bureau.
posted by schmod (76 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
51, gets a lot easier once you're out of the first level.
posted by ryanrs at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2013


My money's on New York in the final.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Note: The cities are randomly assigned every time you start the bracket, so you can play multiple times and there is no seeding. (And you can't compare answers.)
Note 2: This has eaten up more of my time than I care to admit, especially since I got 60 the first time, and have been stuck at a plateau in the 55ish range ever since.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's fun, though using "metropolitan area" data makes it kind of vague and useless in spots (Riverside, CA gets ludicrously over-rated, for instance.)
posted by Navelgazer at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I [heart] geography quizzes. 53 out of 63. Some of these are very difficult.
posted by goethean at 9:17 AM on April 3, 2013


55. I knew I shoulda made a left turn at Albuquerque.
posted by Flunkie at 9:17 AM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


What the hell Riverside.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:17 AM on April 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


51 here. Tough, as there were a handful that I didn't even recognize. Where the hell is Riverside? How could it possibly be so big if I haven't heard of it?
posted by evilangela at 9:18 AM on April 3, 2013


Yeah, Riverside, a place I'd never heard of until today. Hmm.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:18 AM on April 3, 2013


Riverside is part of the California Inland Empire. There's not a lot there that would attract national attention. Sort of famous for meth, I guess.
posted by ryanrs at 9:21 AM on April 3, 2013


57, perfect after the first round. I guess based on the comments here that it was helpful Riverside was paired with New York in my bracket?
posted by dsfan at 9:22 AM on April 3, 2013


Riverside CA is bigger than Columbus OH?! WTF?!
posted by goethean at 9:22 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


52.

The finals are kind of weird, because even though I might screw up some of the smaller ones (Riverside, New Orleans, Baltimore), by the time you're down to the final 16 and 8 you're basically certain. Is the Detroit Metro bigger than the Washington DC metro? I'm not positive (and I guessed wrong) but I damn well know that LA metro is bigger than both. So no matter which one I pick in an earlier round, they'll all fall to the ones I know to be enormous.

An entire tournament... that New York City always wins.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:22 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Riverside metro area, locally the Inland Empire, comprises the metro area that's directly east of Los Angeles/Orange County.

On preview, also sort of famous for foreclosures, awful air pollution.

It usually gets subsumed into "greater Los Angeles," but it's worth pointing out that Riverside and downtown Los Angeles are farther apart (60 miles) than Baltimore and Washington (40 miles).
posted by andrewesque at 9:24 AM on April 3, 2013


52 out of 63 on the cities. But according to this, San Jose is bigger than San Francisco. So, no fair.
posted by seemoreglass at 9:25 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


58! I knew Riverside would be the surprising one. It would be good to have more than 64 cities in the pool, so that New York isn't always the final winner.

Still, I love this kind of thing.
posted by ambrosia at 9:27 AM on April 3, 2013


What the game is calling "Riverside" is actually the entire Inland Empire. They're using the combined population of Riverside and San Bernadino counties (4.3M).
posted by ryanrs at 9:28 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


San Jose is way bigger than SF city and county. But this seems to look at "metro areas".
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:29 AM on April 3, 2013


It's fun, though using "metropolitan area" data makes it kind of vague and useless in spots (Riverside, CA gets ludicrously over-rated, for instance.)

I think just using center cities would create a different but related problem, because then the ranking would be even more subject to the whimsy of city boundaries, which tend to be larger in the West/Southwest than in the Midwest/Northeast.

You'd get results like Boston (#21) is smaller than El Paso (#19), Columbus (#15), Indianapolis (#12) and Jacksonville (#11), which are true by central cities, but I bet which most people would also find intuitively wrong in the same way they are having problems with Riverside in this thread.
posted by andrewesque at 9:29 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're lumping in Oakland - Hayward into San Francisco (which is bullshit).
posted by ryanrs at 9:31 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


56 out of 63
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:35 AM on April 3, 2013


52!

I'm sorry I doubted you (repeatedly) Baltimore.

I played again and Riverside got knocked out by LA in the first round. Suck it Riverside.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:36 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's fun, though using "metropolitan area" data makes it kind of vague and useless in spots (Riverside, CA gets ludicrously over-rated, for instance.)

I think the point of the exercise is to help you understand there are extremely large populations of people in a cohesive geographic area that may not have the name-recognition of a major city, but certainly has the population of one.

I like pointing out the Providence Metro area is larger than New Orleans, Nashville and Jacksonville, in terms of population. We deserve our own major league sports franchise, and indeed, used to have both the Providence Grays and the Steam Rollers (Best. Football. Team. Name. Everrrrr.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:49 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


59 for states, but only 48 for metro areas.

I didn't know some of the metro areas though. I mean, what kind of obscure places are Richmond, Bridgeport, and Jacksonville?
posted by Jehan at 9:52 AM on April 3, 2013


Pretty sure Richmond is where you transfer from Amtrak to BART.
posted by ryanrs at 10:02 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also got 51. I chose Chicago over New York out of loyalty, dammit, that's my story.
posted by capricorn at 10:11 AM on April 3, 2013


I grew up in the Richmond, VA area but I would not have guessed that it's the 43rd (or 44th, or 48th, depending on which wikipedia page you look at) largest metro area in the US.
posted by ghharr at 10:12 AM on April 3, 2013


They're lumping in Oakland - Hayward into San Francisco (which is bullshit).

Well shit, no wonder I got that one wrong. (And a bunch of others, to be fair.)
posted by rtha at 10:12 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I did better on states, too, which I mostly attribute to the Electoral college. I got a few wrong that were close. And had no idea that Puerto Rico had that many people!
posted by mountmccabe at 10:13 AM on April 3, 2013


Providence being larger than Honolulu threw me. I knew of Riverside (not surprised to hear that it beats out a lot of others--though part of why it's counted so big because of the totally ridiculous sprawl of the Inland Empire), but it got paired with Chicago in my round 1, so it was a moot point. I also repeatedly underestimated Pittsburgh (which is larger than San Antonio and Vegas, apparently!)

Smallest municipality to make it to my Sweet 16: Cincinnati, with 2.1 million people (San Antonio, Orlando, and Portland get honorable mentions in this category)
posted by kagredon at 10:14 AM on April 3, 2013


62/63 on states. Washington has surpassed Massachusetts only in the past ten years or so.
posted by seemoreglass at 10:19 AM on April 3, 2013


re: Riverside and the Inland Empire - this got me poking around on google maps.

and I learned that all this while I thought that on the show Workaholics, the characters' hometown of "Rancho Cucamonga" was just a funny little joke about California towns ("a world class community"), but no, there's actually a town called Rancho Cucamonga and its motto actually is "a world class community."
posted by entropone at 10:21 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


An entire tournament... that New York City always wins.
As well it should be.
posted by Flunkie at 10:35 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't believe how many people are still in Detroit!
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:47 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It IS data driven. The Census Bureau defines metro areas every ten years after the decennial census. The basic idea is that there is an employment center, and folks are commuting to it. So the Washington DC metro includes folks from at least one county in West Virginia (last I checked) because more people are commuting to jobs in the District than elsewhere. That's also why what I think of as Southern California is broken into at least five metro areas: Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego, plus Oxnard/Ventura and Santa Ana/Anaheim. Here's a map of the metros from before the 2010 Census.

On preview: very few of those folks live in Detroit. But most of them work probably there.
posted by postel's law at 10:49 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's fun, though using "metropolitan area" data makes it kind of vague and useless in spots (Riverside, CA gets ludicrously over-rated, for instance.)
Well, going by city rather than metropolitan area might overrate things too, just in different ways. For example, to my East Coast eyes, Los Angeles is pretty much just one big suburb. A suburb of nothing, but just a big suburb nonetheless.
posted by Flunkie at 10:51 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: a suburb of nothing.
posted by seemoreglass at 10:55 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, going by city rather than metropolitan area might overrate things too, just in different ways. For example, to my East Coast eyes, Los Angeles is pretty much just one big suburb. A suburb of nothing, but just a big suburb nonetheless.

It's worth pointing out that Los Angeles is #2 (and New York #1, Chicago #3) in the rankings even if you just use the city boundaries.

Also worth pointing out that Los Angeles has a downtown, rail transit, more bus riders than Chicago or Philadelphia, and far denser suburbs than anywhere on the East Coast.
posted by andrewesque at 11:10 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


More bus riders is probably a symptom of bad public transit in LA, not something to brag about.
posted by ryanrs at 11:12 AM on April 3, 2013


More bus riders is probably a symptom of bad public transit in LA, not something to brag about.

Who said I was bragging? All I'm saying is that I get tired of East Coasters calling LA "one big suburb" when it has some very urban characteristics.
posted by andrewesque at 11:14 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, I'm aware that LA would be #2 even if you used the city boundaries. That's why I'm using it as an example of why using the city boundaries might also cause things to be overrated, just in another way.

As for more bus riders, hey, that's great, good for you LA. But the density of LA is similar to the density of... Lowell, Massachusetts. In those terms, it's not just outstripped, but far outstripped, by things like NYC, Chicago, Philly, Miami, San Fran, Boston, and lots of others. It's no NYC. It's no Chicago. It's no Philly. Hell, it's not even Elizabeth, NJ.
posted by Flunkie at 11:16 AM on April 3, 2013


They're lumping in Oakland - Hayward into San Francisco (which is bullshit).

Not really. It's the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area, otherwise known as the San Francisco Bay Area. It is no more bullshit to lump Oakland - Hayward into San Francisco than it is to lump Cambridge into Boston. Both are appropriate.
posted by slkinsey at 11:16 AM on April 3, 2013


If it was really "one big suburb" those bus riders wouldn't be in rail transit, they would be in a car.
posted by andrewesque at 11:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


50. I really thought Worcester was going to win over New York in an upset.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:17 AM on April 3, 2013


As for the "one big suburb" comment, that was not based on statistics of any sort. It was a personal impression based upon my experiences in Los Angeles. And in East Coast suburbs.
posted by Flunkie at 11:17 AM on April 3, 2013


Not really. It's the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area, otherwise known as the San Francisco Bay Area. It is no more bullshit to lump Oakland - Hayward into San Francisco than it is to lump Cambridge into Boston. Both are appropriate.

As someone who's lived in Oakland and Cambridge, I would argue that lumping Oakland into San Francisco is more bullshit than lumping Cambridge into Boston. I'm not saying that lumping Oakland into San Francisco is bullshit. But there's definitely a bigger psychological distance between Oakland and SF than between Cambridge and Boston.

(Oh, and a bigger physical distance. San Francisco Bay is a hell of a lot wider than the Charles River.)
posted by madcaptenor at 11:23 AM on April 3, 2013


More bus riders is probably a symptom of bad public transit in LA, not something to brag about.

This makes no sense.
posted by kagredon at 11:26 AM on April 3, 2013


Slkinsey, the gripe about lumping so much of the East Bay into San Francisco was in the context of a separate San Jose MSA. People who actually live here (like rtha and myself) tend to think of the region as San Francisco, East Bay, and South Bay. The Peninsula usually gets lumped in with San Francisco, unless you're talking about Silicon Valley.
posted by ryanrs at 11:26 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


54. Stupid Riverside.
posted by scody at 11:26 AM on April 3, 2013


By population-weighted population density (basically, the average density that people live at), Los Angeles is third (and virtually tied for second with SF). So there is at least some sense in which the LA metropolitan area is the third most urban metropolitan area in the US.

(I've spent a grand total of a couple hours in LA in my life, so don't believe anything I say that's not just explicitly citing numbers.)
posted by madcaptenor at 11:27 AM on April 3, 2013


The Peninsula usually gets lumped in with San Francisco, unless you're talking about Silicon Valley.

Where does "the Peninsula" start for you? I'd certainly lump in, say, Daly City with SF, but I'd hesitate on, say, Redwood City, which is equidistant from downtown SF and downtown SJ.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:32 AM on April 3, 2013


I got 55 on metro areas in my first go round, largely based on my recall of radio markets in the 90s. I did make one stupid mistake when I briefly forgot it was metro areas and not city population, and accidentally downgraded poor St. Louis, which has a smaller city population but a much larger metro.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:35 AM on April 3, 2013


There's all sorts of metrics for how "big" an urban area is - city population, metro area population, global city index- and it always seems that past the top few on the list, it hardly ever feels intuitively correct.
posted by bendybendy at 11:37 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Palo Alto, as the northern-most city in Santa Clara County, is the border between the Peninsula and the South Bay.
posted by ryanrs at 11:39 AM on April 3, 2013


I suppose which side of the border Palo Alto lies on might be subject to debate. However I've always felt it was on the Peninsula side.
posted by ryanrs at 11:43 AM on April 3, 2013


Oh, and if you're talking about the northern border of the Peninsula, I feel that must lie on the border of San Francisco proper. After all, if you're trying to distinguish the Peninsula from San Francisco, I believe all the boring minor cities along 101 should be grouped together on the non-San Francisco side.
posted by ryanrs at 11:54 AM on April 3, 2013


As someone who's lived in Oakland and Cambridge, I would argue that lumping Oakland into San Francisco is more bullshit than lumping Cambridge into Boston. I'm not saying that lumping Oakland into San Francisco is bullshit. But there's definitely a bigger psychological distance between Oakland and SF than between Cambridge and Boston.


You're in luck! There are actually three levels of statistical areas, with the best-known Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the middle. Large, polycentric MSAs are subdivided into Metropolitan Divisions. So the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward MSA is subdivided into three; one that is San Francisco/San Mateo, one that is Alameda/Contra Costa, and Marin as a third. Similarly, the Boston MSA is subsivided into Boston, Cambridge and Rockingham (SE New Hampshire) metropolitan divisions. So both Oakland and Cambridge are broken out in one classification scheme. Other example splits into Divisions include Seattle/Tacoma, Dallas/Ft Worth, Miami/Ft Lauderdale/W Palm Beach, and NYC/Long Island/Newark/Dutchess-Putnam.

And there is a level above, the Combined Statistical Area, which combines multiple MSAs, so there is one that is the whole Bay Area, including SF/Oakland, San Jose and extends to Sonoma, Santa Cruz and San Joaquin counties. The Boston CSA includes Providence, there is a Washington-Baltimore CSA, and our friend Riverside gets lumped in with Los Angeles.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:31 PM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


THAT WAS FUN! I love love demographics, and especially knowing the difference between "Big Fancy City" and "Actual Population Residing Withing City Limits of Big Fancy City."
posted by davidmsc at 12:45 PM on April 3, 2013


60 for states. All this electoral-college coverage finally paid off.
posted by ersatz at 1:06 PM on April 3, 2013


"N. Mariana Is. or American Samoa?"

oh come on now
posted by Flunkie at 1:21 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and if you're talking about the northern border of the Peninsula, I feel that must lie on the border of San Francisco proper. After all, if you're trying to distinguish the Peninsula from San Francisco, I believe all the boring minor cities along 101 should be grouped together on the non-San Francisco side.


Right, but given your statement

People who actually live here (like rtha and myself) tend to think of the region as San Francisco, East Bay, and South Bay. The Peninsula usually gets lumped in with San Francisco, unless you're talking about Silicon Valley.

it seemed like you were trying to draw a line between "San Francisco" and "the South Bay". There is no such line, because they don't touch each other; the Peninsula is between them.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:25 PM on April 3, 2013


I admit that I'm more familiar with the East Coast, but what the fuck is this "California"?
posted by Greg Nog at 1:34 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


53. Apparently reports of the demise of Michigan are exaggerated.
posted by HotToddy at 1:35 PM on April 3, 2013


there's actually a town called Rancho Cucamonga

Well known to fans of the late, great Jack Benny. [mp3: Voice is that of Mel Blanc]

There are actually three levels of statistical areas

See, the statisticians at the census bureau work for politicians. They're used to pleasing everybody.

Seriously, these are for the purposes primarily of tracking and allocating federal monies. (Technically, they're administered by the Office of Management and Budget.) They're not set up for bragging rights.

A suburb of nothing
totally ridiculous sprawl

There's no there there, in other words. This isn't so much a reason to knock Riverside since it's so common -- the whole mish-mash of the Tysons Corner area, for instance, or the city of Virginia Beach (which is basically an area the size of a county under metro government [since 1963, for reals], which is why you don't realize it's so huge, and the very fact that it's full of sprawl is a constant source of hand-wringing over the lack of a well-defined city center or the provision of transit). In other words, it's a feature of modern development, which may be more or less constrained in some pre-existing metro areas by prior land use or geographic boundaries.

Anyway, if you like this, there's about a thousand Sporcle quizzes you'll get a kick out of, just in Geography.
posted by dhartung at 2:30 PM on April 3, 2013


50. Like so many others, I lost a lot of points to Riverside.

I wasn't surprised Detroit beat Tampa in the first round, since we're going by metro area and not city limits. Part of the reason Detroit's in bad shape is population flight to the suburbs. But then Detroit ran up against Riverside in the second round. Damnit!
posted by asciident at 4:42 PM on April 3, 2013


56! I feel like I've been waiting for this game my whole life. More match-ups, with increasingly obscure cities, please!

Also why doesn't Portland come with a state abbreviation? Oh, I'm the only one who remembers that Portland, ME was the first one? Okay cool just checking.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:06 PM on April 3, 2013


As a Canadian, this was very much an exercise in the efficiency of the recognition heuristic.
"In their original experiment, Daniel Goldstein and Gerd Gigerenzer quizzed students in Germany and the United States on the populations of both German and American cities. Each group scored slightly higher on the foreign cities despite only recognizing a fraction of them."
posted by lookoutbelow at 7:29 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, I did worse than all of you, and Riverside was next to NYC in the first bracket.
posted by schmod at 8:21 PM on April 3, 2013


I almost posted this link a while back as I caught a glimpse earlier via Ms. exogenous. She works at Census and points out that the metropolitan and micropolitan (really?) area delineations were published in the Federal Register (PDF). Unlike MetaFilter, the comment period for those has apparently closed.

Speaking of southern California, I went to college
posted by exogenous at 8:22 PM on April 3, 2013


... near the LA county border and was amazed at the number of porn shops just outside the border in San Bernadino county.
posted by exogenous at 8:37 PM on April 3, 2013


Oh those Census Bureau guys. They're just a laugh a minute.

Next week: Do you know which states are the top corn producers?
posted by Twang at 9:27 PM on April 3, 2013


Where the hell is Riverside? How could it possibly be so big if I haven't heard of it?

This is definitely an East Coast-West Coast thing. I was saying "what the hell is Virginia Beach?". And Washington is bigger than Phoenix? I guess I need to go there. I picture the area as being a few square miles with a few thousand people. The one western city that tripped me up was Austin. I can’t believe it’s twice the size of Tucson or ABQ, it sure doesn’t seem like it.
posted by bongo_x at 10:27 PM on April 3, 2013


53. Detroit is bigger than Tuscon, apparently. Didn't know that. (As in, didn't think it was still bigger than Tuscon, given all the gloomy tales from there)

And yeah, Riverside. WTH indeed.
posted by the cydonian at 11:06 PM on April 3, 2013


I picture the area as being a few square miles with a few thousand people.

I used to think that too! Recently I learned that it has a larger population than Vermont, which helped me out here.

Michigan messed me up on the states.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:37 AM on April 4, 2013


Virginia Beach is surprisingly huge, and Boston's way smaller than most people think it is.

(VA Beach/Hampton Roads are endless sprawl, while Boston has a very dense core that drops off rather quickly once you leave downtown.)
posted by schmod at 11:09 AM on April 4, 2013


Virginia Beach is surprisingly huge, and Boston's way smaller than most people think it is.

But this is about metropolitan area population, in which Boston is tenth. (The top ten are NY, LA, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philly, Washington, Miami, Atlanta, and Boston.)

I suspect most people think Philly's smaller than it is.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:35 AM on April 4, 2013


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