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Defining Metropolitan and Megapolitan Areas

Gregory K. Ingram

December 2014, English

Planners, geographers, and economists use many varied areas for spatial analysis. These include: individual parcels or lots, city blocks, neighborhoods, school districts, cities, counties, metropolitan areas, megapolitan areas, regions, nations, and transnational groupings. Many of these areas are well defined based on property descriptions (lots and blocks), government boundaries (school districts, cities, counties, and nations), or specific criteria (metropolitan areas). Some areas have more of an open texture (neighborhoods, regions, and transnational groupings) whose scope depends on the details of the problem being addressed. For example, neighborhood definitions used to develop measures of inequality likely would differ from those used to examine environmental issues. Megapolitan areas are relatively new as a candidate area for analysis, having first been addressed in detail by Jean Gottmann in his study of the north east coastal area in the United States (Gottman, 1961), and they have been subject to much additional attention in the past decade. This paper addresses the definition of megapolitan areas in comparison with the definition of metropolitan areas.