Defining and Measuring Metropolitan Areas: A Comparison between Canada and the United States
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By Henry A. Puderer, Chief, Geographic Concepts, Geography Division, Statistics Canada
Paper prepared for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) International Workshop on 'Defining and Measuring Metropolitan Regions', November 27, 2006, Paris, France.
On November 26, 2006, the OECD held an international workshop on defining and measuring metropolitan regions. The reasons the OECD organized this workshop are listed below.
Metropolitan Regions have become a crucial economic actor in today's highly integrated world. Not only do they play their traditional role of growth poles in their countries but they function as essential nodes of the global economy.
Policy makers, international organisations and research networks are increasingly called to compare the economic and social performances of Metropolitan Regions across countries. Examples of this work undertaken in international organisation and networks include the UN-Habitat, the European Union Urban Audit, European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON) and the OECD Competitive Cities.
The scope of what we can learn from these international comparisons, however, is limited by the lack of a comparable definition of Metropolitan Regions. Although most countries have their own definitions, these vary significantly from one country to another. Furthermore, in search for higher cross-country comparability, international initiatives have - somehow paradoxically - generated an even larger number of definitions.
In principle, there is no clear reason to prefer one definition to another. As each definition has been elaborated for a specific analytical purpose, it captures some features of a Metropolitan Region while it tends to overlook others. The issue, rather, is that we do not know the pros and the cons of different definitions nor, most important, the analytical implications of using one definition rather than another.
In order to respond to these questions, the OECD hosted an international workshop on 'Defining and Measuring Metropolitan Regions'. The workshop brought major international organisations (the United Nations, Eurostat, the World Bank, and the OECD), National Statistical Offices and researchers from this field. The aim of the workshop was to develop some 'guiding principles', which could be agreed upon among the participants and would eventually provide the basis for some form of 'International Guidance' for comparing Metropolitan Regions across countries.
This working paper was presented at this workshop. It provides the conceptual and methodological basis for the definition of metropolitan areas in Canada and provides a detailed comparison of Canada's methodology to that of the United States. The intent was to encourage discussion regarding Canada's approach to defining metropolitan areas in the effort to identify the 'guiding principles'. It is being made available as a working paper to continue this discussion and to provide background to the user community to encourage dialogue and commentary from the user community regarding Canada's metropolitan area methodology.
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