The Geography of Municipal Incorporation: Where Are the Newly Incorporated Municipalities (NIMs)?

  • Russell M. SmithEmail author
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


Since the 1950s, municipal incorporation activity has been declining precipitously. The rate of new cities formation has decreased by almost 100% since the 1950s. Reasons for this great decline include: the lack of available territory from which to create a new municipality, changes in state laws related to annexation and incorporations, declining rates of suburbanization, and an increasing role of alternative forms of local government boundary change including special district formation. Between January 1, 1990, and December 31, 2009, 434 new municipalities were incorporated within the USA. These 434 new cities contained a combined population of more than 4 million according to 2010 US Census figures. Many of the new municipalities created over the last few decades cluster together around major metropolitan areas. Meanwhile, several states have not had any new incorporations, largely the result of ossified boundaries that limit the amount of unincorporated territory available from which to “carve” a new city and legislative hurdles that prefer alternative forms of local government boundary change. The mean population for new municipalities was almost 10,000, and the median was approximately 1200. However, the populations of new municipalities ranged from 5 to more than 150,000 residents.


Municipal incorporation activity Spatial distribution State patterns US Census Regions 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.History, Politics and Social JusticeWinston-Salem State UniversityWinston-SalemUSA

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