Special Report

This Is the Smallest City in America

The federal government breaks down places where people live into a number of categories. The best known are states, metropolitan areas, and counties. Another, which is not as well known, is core-based statistical areas. There are 927 of them in the United States, and the smallest one is Vernon, Texas. (These are the 25 smallest countries and territories in the world.)

CBSAs include both metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. Metropolitan statistical areas have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, while micropolitan statistical areas have at least one urban cluster with a population between 10,000 and 50,000. Each also includes the “adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties,” per the Census definition. 

These were originally set up by the U.S. Office of Management.

Of the 12 smallest CBSAs, six are in Texas. Vernon is northwest of Dallas, near the Oklahoma border. It has a population of 12,552, which is down 7.26% from the 2010 census. The population has been shrinking since 1980. (This is the fastest shrinking city in America.)

Vernon’s population is 51% white and 34% Latino or Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau. The median annual household income is an unusually low $42,533, more than $20,000 below the U.S. median. The poverty rate is an extraordinarily high 21.8%. The city covers just under 8 square miles.

Despite its many economic struggles, Vernon describes itself as “Where the West Really Begins,” trying to promote the city as an attractive place to visit for business and tourism. The city is governed by a mayor and city commission but has a professional city manager who runs the city day-to-day.

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