Map Monday: 7-County Metro Population in Thirds

Last week on Twitter, Daniel Kay Hertz of City Observatory shared this map of the Chicago metro area divided into equal thirds, each containing roughly 3 million people. Since I was curious how that would look for Minneapolis St. Paul, I set off to find some data. To create the map below, I needed Census tracts with population and geographic boundaries of cities and counties in the metro area – all data available from Minnesota Geospatial Commons.  I did not use any fancy analytical tools to create the map. I basically selected Census tracts until I reached the target 1/3 population. This method allowed me to keep most municipalities in a single “ring” as much as possible, and also apply my own judgement as to which suburbs are 1st ring vs. 2nd ring vs. 3rd ring.

Since the 2010 population of the 7-county metro was just shy of a clean 3 million (2.87 million), each 1/3 is actually about 957,000 people. However, it was just announced that the 7-county metro reached 3 million people for the first time (based on estimated population as of July 1, 2015). Even though the map below is already dated, I don’t think the boundaries of each million people would shift too much, as each county in the metro is growing.

BONUS:  I must reference this excellent post by Nick Magrino, Measuring the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area, and Getting Real with the Map.  I strongly urge you to read it, whether you are new to or perhaps missed it a year ago.  It takes this type of analysis in a different direction, looking at how many people live in different sectors of the metro area, categorized by era/type of development (walkable grid vs. sprawl), and the implications that has on our metropolitics. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.


9 Responses to Map Monday: 7-County Metro Population in Thirds

  1. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini April 4, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    I wonder if a map of jobs in thirds would look mostly the same or different. According to the OnTheMap tool, the 7 county metro had 1.663 million total jobs in 2014. The entire cities of [Minneapolis, St Paul, Richfield, Edina, SLP, Robbinsdale, Lauderdale, Falcon Heights, St Anthony, Wet St Paul, and Mendota Heights] have 633k jobs, over the 554k 1/3 mark.

    Eyeballing your map, my gut says there are more jobs than residents in the inner 1/3, probably about equal in the next third, and more residents than jobs in the outer.

    • cobo Rodreges April 4, 2016 at 9:59 am #

      Im not sure about that. While there are large concentrations of jobs in the core cities and first ring suburbs. There is also a very large concentration of jobs on the south 494 corridor. Bloomington & Eden prairie both boast job counts that are near their population. While Minneapolis job count is only 3/4 of their total population.

      If you look at the 2010 distribution map you can see how uneven job distribution is.

      For total job counts by city, I think the metropolitan council is a pretty good source.

      • Alex Cecchini
        Alex Cecchini April 4, 2016 at 10:48 am #

        The Met Council is good for city breakdowns (though so is the OnTheMap tool), but since Matt’s map included partial areas of some of the 1st/2nd ring suburbs, it’s a bit tough to use city-only data.

        I tried my best to replicate Matt’s map using the polygon tool in OnTheMap. Job total for his inner third boundary was about 736k. Job total for the entire area bounded by the second third was 1.332 million. So about 595k jobs in his second third area. Which isn’t much more than 554k, 1/3 of the 7-county total jobs. Which would support my gut feeling that the second ring has about the same number of jobs as residents (though I should have clarified, I meant **working residents** – but this gets tricky as demographics are definitely different between cities and suburbs in terms of workers per household).

        Of course, where you draw these lines is fairly arbitrary. Matt’s inner third ring included many job centers in Edina and Bloomington (as you note) in the MOA/airport/494/Southdale areas. If he had simply shifted the population line to exclude any parts of Bloomington or Edina and pushed it to catch more population in the northern (less job-rich) suburbs, the breakout would have been different.

  2. David Markle
    David Markle April 4, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    Very worthwhile information. I’d like to have an independently elected Met Council based on non-gerrymandered equal population districts. Such a plan would tend to represent various situations typical for those districts. (And we’d then have an important layer of government that’s more accountable and maybe more sensible use of transit funds, not projects like the Gold Line that appear to benefit behind-the-scenes interests.)

    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman April 4, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

      I’d like to see that too. I get the impression that 2/3rd of the influence on the Met Council comes from the red area, which only has 1/3rd of the population so you can see why the suburbs have a beef with it.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke April 4, 2016 at 3:42 pm #

        Ironically, it’s many of the suburbs that have over-represented influence are the ones that don’t like the system. They’d probably tell you that they’re not influential at all.

  3. Matt Brillhart April 5, 2016 at 11:13 pm #

    Don’t know if anyone else caught this, but the map also unintentionally approximates the DFL (blue+gray) and GOP (red) split in the state legislature to a pretty remarkable degree of accuracy.

    • Wanderer April 11, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

      All over the country, the equivalents to the blue area support Democrats. The equivalents to the red area support Republicans. The grey area–the inner and middle suburbs–is typically the contested terrain.

  4. Cameron Slick April 9, 2016 at 10:31 am #

    How much of the blue and grey would change if you changed it to the 15 county metropolitan statistical area?

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