Camden Is the Overall Most Dangerous “Suburb” in the U.S.

Is the city of Camden, NJ, really a suburb?

Movoto — whose tagline is “the lighter side of real estate” — is the Upworthy of the real estate blogosphere. It makes BuzzFeed look like Kafka. Still, every now and then one of their preposterous rankings provide an opportunity for consideration of, like, concepts and stuff. Like the recent post “These Are America’s 10 Most Dangerous Suburbs.”

Depending on who you listen to — Movoto or Movoto — Camden is either the most dangerous suburb or the second most dangerous suburb. In the slideshow and list, it’s No. 2. In the text, it’s No. 1.

What’s interesting is the notion of the city of Camden, NJ, as a suburb. By any colloquial definition, Camden is not a suburb, though municipalities in Camden County, NJ, are often characterized as Philadelphia suburbs.

How do we know Camden is not a suburb? It’s a bit tricky. There is no broadly accepted, federally sanctioned definition of the word “suburb,” which has a complex history and is fraught with innumerable and ever-increasing associations. In a 2000 glossary, the Census Bureau defined the word “suburban” as “the area inside metropolitan areas but outside central cities.”

Those concepts have changed. When it comes to geographic boundaries, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sets official delineations of geographic areas. Here’s how the most recent White House bulletin on the subject breaks down the categories:

Metropolitan Statistical Areas have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.

Micropolitan Statistical Areas have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.

Metropolitan Division is used to refer to a county or group of counties within a Metropolitan Statistical Area that has a population core of at least 2.5 million. While a Metropolitan Division is a subdivision of a larger Metropolitan Statistical Area, it often functions as a distinct social, economic, and cultural area within the larger region.

Combined Statistical Areas can be characterized as representing larger regions that reflect broader social and economic interactions, such as wholesaling, commodity distribution, and weekend recreation activities, and are likely to be of considerable interest to regional authorities and the private sector. If specified criteria are met, adjacent Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas, in various combinations, may become the components of a Combined Statistical Area.

Both Philadelphia and Camden are part of the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area, in which Camden is defined as a principal city. Other area delineations include:

Montgomery County-Bucks County-Chester County, PA Metropolitan Division:
Bucks County, Chester County, Montgomery County

Camden, NJ Metropolitan Division:
Burlington County, Camden County, and Gloucester County.

Philadelphia, PA Metropolitan Division:
Delaware County, Philadelphia County

Philadelphia-Reading-Camden Combined Statistical Area
Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area
Dover, DE Metropolitan Statistical Area
Ocean City, NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metropolitan Statistical Area
Reading, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area

According to the Census Bureau, Camden (population 77,000+) would count as an Urbanized Area, which is defined as “densely developed territory that contains 50,000 or more people.”

To be fair (?), Movoto uses the word “suburbs” interchangeably with “suburban cities.” Is it possible to be a principal city of an MSA and be a suburban city?

The list has been picked up elsewhere, of course, which is just a shame. More bad press for Camden, as if the city needed that.

Photo: Camden is under the impression that it is a city — at least judging by the banner on its website.