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States and their counties or equivalents are the two major political geographies in the United States. National and State data is collected for these boundaries. When it comes to regional analysis, the states are too large and the counties too small. Metropolitan statistical areas reflect major regional economic relationships, but that focus leaves out the non-metro counties. A longitudinal analysis for MSAs over decades is not fruitful, since the underlying composition changes.
A geospatial unit of analysis that is used in many states and could be used nation-wide is the sub-state district, generically known as the regional council. Over half of the states have a complete system where the regional council is organized and may be a political subdivision. Long term analysis can be done for these State standard regions. The analyses can be used by these regions for programmatic purposes, such as economic development.
Data solutions exist for States with an incomplete system or no system. The products of these base analyses would contribute to the analysis and planning by making the existing regional networks more visible, enabling greater use of existing data and, for data like County Business Patterns, overcome confidentiality concerns through multi-county datasets. It also enables aggregation to multi-region datasets that fit the issue at hand, be it a watershed, transportation corridor or other significant geography, in state or multi-state.
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