Among The NY Times Magazine's "4th Annual Year in Ideas" are the U.S. Census Bureau's new Micropolitan areas, suburban and exurban counties with a "core city" of between 10,000 and 50,000. These 500+ counties were home to 29 million people in 2000; the fastest growing among them are in the Sunbelt. They were recently discovered by the Census as well as by Karl Rove -- well after, the NY Times reports, Wal-Mart, Applebee's and others had set up shop there.
Useful definitions that describe dynamic settlement patterns are hard to come by (think "Edge Cities", "Sprinkler City", "Garden City", etc.). Americans keep "voting with their feet". Often, these votes tell us more than the ones recorded in the ballot booth.