How to get a useful handle on The Great Dispersion? The OMB and Census Bureau's new Micropolitan areas define something in-between a rural and an urban place. They are usually counties focused on small central cities (between 10,000 and 50,000 pop.). Even so, there are almost 600 of them and they span a huge range.
Lang and Dhavale sliced and diced the data the in many ways. Their ten fastest growing Micros grew by 67% in the period 1990-2000. These were within 100 miles (average) of the nearest Metro area. Those ten Micros nearest a Metro area (34 miles average distance) grew by 7% over the decade. This was less than the country as a whole.
Another way to go is with the USDA's new "Urban Influence" codes. These denote three types of Micropolitan areas: adjacent to a large Metro area (above 1 million pop), adjacent to a small Metro area (less than 1 million pop), or not adjacent to any Metro area. Only the first group grew faster than the U.S. in the 1990s in terms of people. But, both the first and the third grew faster than the U.S. in terms of private sector jobs. In fact, the first group topped all other USDA-area categories in terms of retail and wholesale job growth. The third group was first in terms of manufacturing job growth.
The Great Dispersion is a many splendored thing. We are just beginning to understand it. George W. Bush carried 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties last Nov. Perhaps he and his people have a clue.