Since the shift began toward a majority urban population in the United States roughly a century ago, the number of people living in cities has grown continuously. Those cities have since expanded, sprawling out into surrounding areas and creating broader urban zones—the major metropolitan areas we know today. The government defines a metro area as a geographic space based around one or more core urban zones with a population of at least 50,000. Metros may exist in one county or span multiple counties, and some even cross state lines. By the government's definition, there are almost 400 metropolitan areas in the country. In total, these account for approximately 86% of the entire US population, or about 280 million people. Of that number, 50% of the urban population resides in one of the top 25 metros—areas that are only growing larger every year. For employers in and around these places, this growth and the accompanying flow of people in and out of these regions create unique vetting concerns that require special strategies to address.
What brought about these changes? Metro areas aren't new, and many cluster around older communities and larger cities. Big cities are seen as desirable destinations due to a higher concentration of potential employers and the perceived economic value of living near such opportunities.<br.
Population growth has been a driving factor in reshaping modern cities. As places to live within a city diminish, demands for new housing spur the creation of suburbs (and beyond them, exurbs). While this is not always the path metropolitan development takes, there are always more people looking for good opportunities and vibrant places to live.
Many of these people may commute back to a hub city or seek employment in the commercial development that springs up around metropolitan areas. Today, nearly all the best places to live and work in the United States fall within one of the top 25 metropolitan areas. The Orlando metro in Florida, for example, is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, ranked 13th on Business Insider's list of the best places to seek employment. Chandler, Arizona, which ranked #1 on the same list, is a component of the broader Phoenix metro area. Others, such as Tampa, Austin, and Irvine, all belong to metro areas as well. What does this growth mean for employers?
Understanding a candidate's background is important for making informed choices about which applicants will make suitable hires. Even if your business is not located near one of the top 25 metropolitan areas, there is a high likelihood your candidates have lived or worked there in the past. Consider that, based on US Census information, the average individual moves about 11 times during their life. According to one recent analysis of these statistics, that means a typical 30-year-old has moved at least six times.
The best practices for conducting background checks stipulate employers should consider seven years of an applicant's address history, in line with the Fair Credit Reporting Act's time limits on some types of records. Even with a window of only seven years, it is very likely any applicant under consideration has moved at least once during that period. For that reason, ordering a narrow background check—for example, one that focuses only on the applicant's current county of residence—will not yield a complete picture.
When faced with an applicant whose address history reveals residence in a metro area, or for businesses based in these regions, the best choice is to consider the most complete set of records possible. Using a metro area background check, aggregating this diverse dataset into one report is simple and straightforward. With it, understanding who you're considering for a position becomes much easier.
List of major metro areas in the United States:
The high percentage of the US population now living in metro areas combined with the high likelihood of a move in an applicant’s recent history necessitate broader pre-employment considerations. With the increasing burden and rising importance of a company's due diligence efforts in vetting prospective employees, urban employers must turn over every stone in their search.
With a background check that examines an entire metro area, it becomes far easier to gather records spread across multiple counties or states. By looking at an individual's known address history and searching for corresponding records, employers can empower themselves to make future decisions with the right information at hand.