Is Caldwell an exurb?


In his lead to the recent New York Times story on boise's smog problem, William Yardley refers to Caldwell, in relation to Boise, as, "this high-desert capital and its outermost exurb."

Exurbia is a term that has come of vogue in recent years, earning mentions on NPR, dropped into magazine articles and about to be Twittered by citydesk. Our layman's understanding of "exurban" is that it is an area to which suburbanites might flee as the city encroaches on their once-tranquil white picket existence.

We have looked it up before, but that was our rough understanding until now. Needless to say, we have not used the term in print, since we don't really know what it means.

But Yardley's usage threw us for a loop: How could Caldwell be an exurb, if there is a barely an urb here? 

A recent Brookings Institution report on exurbia appears to agree with our instincts, mapping zero exurbia in the state of Idaho and little to no exurbs in the Mountain West.
It defines exurbs as: "communities located on the urban fringe that have at least 20 percent of their workers commuting to jobs in an urbanized area, exhibit low housing density, and have relatively high population growth."

Some of this fits Caldwell and Boise's other western outskirts as well; lots of commuters, sprawl and influx of new residents. So the New York Times is not completely off base. 
Brookings continues: "Not yet full fledged suburbs, but no longer wholly rural in nature, these exurban areas are reportedly undergoing rapid change in population, land use, and economic function."

But the Brookings breakdown breaks down at the size of Boise Metropolitan Statistical Area in that it's less than 500,000 people. So nowhere in Idaho, Wyoming or Montana can be considered exurban.

While Canyon County certainly has some exurban characteristics, it seems a bit presumptuous to characterize it that way. But maybe we should write an article about it to find out what exurbia really means before up and blogging about it.