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From Home Furnishing Business

Statistically Speaking: Demographic Layers in Mega-Markets Create Unique Marketing Opportunities

As expected, densely populated Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) produce the highest furniture industry sales. Bigger Core cities within these markets have higher paying jobs and support more Central and Outlying counties. Age tends to be younger in the Core area of these large MSAs but grows older in the smaller MSAs and Micropolitan Statistical Areas. Using data from the Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey report, this month’s Statistically Speaking looks at the demographics and the layers of large MSAs spreading out from the MSA Core to Central and Outlying county bands. It also analyzes the differences between top and bottom sized MSAs and how they differ based on income, age, and housing characteristics.

Metropolitan Statistical Areas come in all sizes, the largest being New York-Jersey CityWhite Plains, NY-NJ (a subset of the larger CBSA) and the smallest being Fairfield, IA. Statistically Speaking has divided the counties in larger markets over 1 million in population into three designations for analysis – Core, Central, and Outlying. The layers of these markets have unique demographics and marketing within them is not a one-sizefits-all approach. Core counties always contain the principal city of the MSA, followed by Central counties that also contain large distinct metro areas. Outlying counties are still part of the MSA, but are further out from the Core and contain smaller towns. Markets with less than 1 million in population are smaller and are divided into only Central and Outlying areas.

The largest MSAs, those with populations 2.5 million and over, consist of 23 markets with 169 counties. MSAs with 1 million to 2.5 million population have 43 markets encompassing 248 counties. Figure 1 shows a summary of MSAs by size and by Core, Central, or Outlying counties and the number included in the U.S. Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey. Bottom MSAs consist of many smaller counties and markets.

It might surprise some to learn that 21.9% of all industry sales are sold in only 31 of the 3,142 counties – the Core of the largest MSAs. (See Figure 2.) Over 60% of industry sales occurred in 66 markets with population over 1 million. The MSAs with populations between 250,000 to 999,000 account for 22.6% of sales. While containing 344 counties, markets with less than 250,000 population only account for 7.8% of total furniture industry sales.

Age Range

The Core urban areas of the top populated MSAs, 1 million and over, have the greatest concentration of 25 to 54-year-olds at 42%, while Central and Outlying areas have a higher percentage of older people (Table A). Central counties are the next layer out from the Core in the mega metro areas. Smaller markets under 1 million are not designated with Core counties rather only Central or Outlying. These Central counties also have more people in prime furniture buying years (25 to 54) compared to Outlying counties. In general, the less populated markets have a higher percentage of people over 55 – roughly 34% in Central micropolitan statistical areas and Outlying markets with less than 250,000.


As shown in Table B, Central counties beyond the Core within MSAs that have a population 1 million and over make the most money – a median income range of $75,000 to $99,000, partially due to more married-couples with dual incomes. Both the Core and Outlying counties within the largest MSAs have a median income between $50,000 and $74,999. Central counties in smaller MSAs and Micropolitan Statistical Areas also earn between $50,000 and $74,999, while Outlying counties in smaller MSAs that have a population less than 250,000 have a median income of $25,000 to $49,999.

Consistent with the median income chart (Table B), Table C shows the Central counties out from the Core in large MSAs over 1 million population have the highest household incomes with 11.7% earning $200,000 or more, compared to only 4.2% in Central counties in small MSAs with a population less than 250,000. The highest percentage of lower income earners under $50,000 can also be found in the smaller MSAs under 250,000 population. Urban, highly populated Core counties within top MSAs have a higher percentage (39.3%) of households earning under $50,000 than Central and Outlying counties within those markets, 31.3% and 35.7% respectively.

In terms of average incomes (as opposed to median), Central counties, suburbs closely connected to the Core areas, also have higher average household incomes than both the Core and Outlying counties regardless of the size of the MSA. Central counties in MSAs with a population above 2.5 million have an average income of $108,866 compared to $99,585 for Core counties and $98,772 for Outlying counties. In populations 1 million to 2.5 million, Central counties have incomes 18% higher than Core counties (Table D).

Housing Status

Not surprisingly, the larger the MSA the higher percentage of occupied housing units versus vacant housing units. Central counties within MSAs with populations 1 million and over have 91.9% occupied housing units, compared to 85.8% for Central counties in MSAs with population less than 250,000 (Table E).

The percentage of owner-occupied versus renter-occupied housing units fluctuates based on whether the counties are Core, Central, or Outlying within the MSA (Table F). As expected, Core counties within the largest MSAs have the most renters – roughly 47% percent of renter-occupied housing units. Outlying counties have predominately owner-occupied units, above 70% for both top and bottom MSAs.

While bigger MSAs contain households making higher incomes, housing is also more expensive and many more homeowners carry mortgages. Therefore, the smaller the MSA, the greater the percentage of owner-occupied housing units without a mortgage (Table G). Central counties in MSAs with population over a 1 million have 32.1% of owner-occupied housing units without a mortgage compared 37.2% for Central counties in populations between 250,000 and 999,999 and 41.5% for Central counties in populations less than 250,000. Over half of owner-occupied units (50.8%) in Outlying counties within the smallest MSAs are without a mortgage reflecting an older population.

The percent of occupied housing units with family households versus non-family households varies by type of county within the MSAs. At 70.8%, the highest percentage of family households in occupied units, are in Outlying counties within MSAs of a population 1 million and over. The percentage of family households ranges between 61% and 69% in all other counties types (Table H). In all counties within MSAs both big and small, married couple households are the majority type of family household – most above 73%. The larger MSAS, Core counties have the fewest married-couples in family households at 69% (Table I).

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