There are many different ways to define geographic regions: some political and cultural, others purely economic. And of course, there are many different geographic scales - from municipalities and independent cities and counties to metropolitan areas, even mega-regions. The best indicators take us beyond political boundaries and to enable us see locations as more natural economic units.
What if we looked to Craigslist to draw our regional boundaries? Here's how it would look, courtesy of IDV User Experience.
Think of this as a map that shows how consumers define what is and isn't local. People on the East Coast appear to not to need to travel a long distance for a good deal, while populations that are less dense have a larger local geography. As my MPI colleague Kevin Stolarick puts it:
Currently, regions are defined mostly by commuting patterns – they use labor markets to determine “economic areas.” Given the changing nature of work and the workforce – does labor market still make sense? What exactly should be the definition of a metropolitan or other region? What do they mean? How do they work? The Craigslist map is great since it shows how far people are willing to travel for used toasters (or sex).
On Craigslist, geographical boundaries created long ago are irrelevant. What matters is the amount of influence that a region has on potential buyers.