Reassessing and Revising Commuting Zones for 2010: History, Assessment, and Updates for U.S. ‘Labor-Sheds’ 1990–2010

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23 Scopus citations


This paper employs commuter flow data from the 1990 and 2000 Decennial Censuses, and the 2006–2010 American Community Survey to replicate, evaluate, and extend the delineation of commuting zones first proposed by Tolbert and Killian (Labor Market Areas for the United States, 1987). Commuting zones offer a valuable tool for research on regional economies and have long served rural sociologists, economists, and geographers interested in a representation of the economy that acknowledges a connection between urban and rural areas and the capacity of economic systems to cross state lines. Our delineations provide both an update in the form of new delineations for 2010 and a revised set of 1990 and 2000 delineations that benefit from a consistent methodology across decades. We also provide a set of tools for comparing delineations across methods and over time. In presenting our revised delineations, we shed light on the role of expert opinion in the original delineations, the strengths and weaknesses of the original method, and offer suggestions for further revision of this tool that may better reflect the theoretical conception of commuting zones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-286
Number of pages24
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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