In-state rivals – larger city, but smaller metro population

Here are the six examples found of the largest city in population of a particular state not being the core of the largest metropolitan area. Interestingly, all but one example come from the South.  It is also interesting to note how close Memphis and Nashville are in city population – a virtual tie. Charleston and Huntington are in a tight race for first city of West Virginia too.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jacksonville and Houston are considerably larger than their nearest in-state rivals. However, Jacksonville falls into fourth for Florida metro areas while Houston continues to be a bridesmaid to Dallas-Fort Worth.

Population estimates from the Census Bureau for the cities are from 2013 and for the metro areas are from 2014.


Largest city                                           Largest metro

Bridgeport: 147,216                       Hartford: 1,214,295

New Haven: 130,660                     Bridgeport-Stamford: 945,438

Stamford: 126,456                          New Haven: 861,277

Hartford: 125,017


Largest city                                           Largest metro

Jacksonville: 842,543                     Miami- Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach: 5,929,819

Miami: 417,650                                Tampa – St. Petersburg: 2,915,582

Tampa: 352,957                               Orlando: 2,321,418

Orlando: 255,483                             Jacksonville: 1,419,127

OHIO (thanks for the reminder, Jonathan)

Largest city                                          Largest metro

Columbus: 822,553                             Cincinnati: 2,149,449

Cleveland: 390,113                             Cleveland: 2,063,598

Cincinnati: 297,517                            Columbus: 1,994,536


Largest city                                           Largest metro

Memphis: 653,450                           Nashville-Murfreesboro: 1,792,649

Nashville: 634,464                           Memphis: 1,343,230


Largest city                                            Largest metro

Houston: 2,195,514                          Dallas-Fort Worth: 6,954,330

San Antonio: 1,409,019                   Houston: 6,490,180

Dallas: 1,257,676                               San Antonio: 2,328,652


Largest city                                           Largest metro

Charleston: 50,821                          Huntington-Ashland: 363,325

Huntington: 49,177                         Charleston: 222,878


Sources: and Census Bureau

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3 Responses to In-state rivals – larger city, but smaller metro population

  1. Jonathan says:

    The major Ohio cities represent an an interesting example of this. Columbus is far and away the largest in city population, but still lags Cleveland in metro population after recently passing Cincinnati.


  2. I wonder what we are measuring here. It looks to me like we are measuring fragmentation. Cities are governmental units, metropolitan areas are economic units. They would diverge if the large metros tended to fragment more. It could also be that for particular reasons, a few cities were very aggressive in annexation and thus got a much larger share of the metro growth than their peers, even if the metro growth was smaller.

    There are some interesting similar cases you did not note related to bi-state metros. Covington, KY is not the biggest city in KY, but I bet the Cinci metro is the biggest metro occupying a portion of Kentucky. The same would be true for West Memphis, AK. Also true for Council Bluffs, IA. Metropolitan areas as economic units often straddle state lines, which are arbitrary government units.


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