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TitleUsing Data Buffet: Retrieve metro areas by state
AuthorPhillip Thorne

Can I easily retrieve data for all metro areas contained in a given state?


The short answer

For baskets, Data Buffet has no inbuilt mechanism that specifies all metro areas within (or partially within) a state. Instead, you can create a custom geo list.

The long answer

Metropolitan areas are where most economic activity takes place, and if your focus is a particular region, you may want to operate on all of its metro areas.  Data Buffet offers wild card expressions that can simplify bulk data retrieval -- in certain circumstances.

In one such case, our U.S. county geo codes embed the geo code of the parent state.  For example, PA denotes Pennsylvania, PA011 is Berks County within Pennsylvania, and PA^^^ is a geo wild card for all counties in Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, it's not so simple with metro areas.  Many MSAs cross state borders, so you can think of them as "belonging" to two states (e.g. Fort Smith, AR-OK) or even three (e.g., Wilmington DE-MD-NJ).  It's pointless for us to embed the state geo code within the MSA geo code, hence there's no commonality on which to formulate a wild card.

Instead, you can create and apply a custom geo list, which can contain any combination of geo codes, in a specific order.


1. Determine which MSAs are within the state of interest.  Use this reference:

Tools » Reference Files » Geographies » USA - Metropolitan Areas (CBSA) - 2010 Based [xls] » worksheet:Metropolitan Areas by State

For example, Connecticut contains four MSAs, with geo codes of IUSA_MBRP, IUSA_MHAR, IUSA_MNEH and IUSA_MNOW.

2. Create a custom geo list.

menu:Tools » Geography Lists » Create a new list

3. Configure the list by following the prompts.

Step 1: Name = CONN_MSA.LST

Step 2: Description = MSAs in Connecticut

Button: Create geography list

Enter the geo codes in the text area, one code per line, no punctuation.

Menu:Save List

(To verify the description of each geo code, press "Show Detail." To exit that screen, press "Edit List.")

4. Use the list in a basket.

New » Basket

Add Series


(You can verify the list in Grid Editor mode. In the Description column, click "GEO LIST" and in the popup menu, "View Expanded List."  If no such series exist, the Title column will be blank.)

5. Run the basket.  This will retrieve four separate time series.


You can download separate series using a wild card, but you cannot write a wild card expression that will aggregate the series to one value.  Instead, you can write a formula. For example:


More generally, wild cards and geo lists are prohibited in formulas.

MSAs are just one kind of "core-based statistical area" (CBSA) defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.  All CBSAs are aggregates of counties or county-equivalents, chosen according to certain rules about population and economic ties. Our geo codes differentiate between the different types, for example:

  • Metropolitan statistical area: IUSA_MFLA  = Flagstaff, AZ
  • Metropolitan division:      IUSA_DMOAK = Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA
  • Micropolitan area:        IUSA_OSRL  = Sterling, CO