Timewaster: Population madness

We give Timewaster Credit [tm] today to the usual buttoned-down people at the U.S. Census Bureau. They’ve put together the perfect afternoon timewaster during March Madness — a bracket form for city populations.

Choose games by either city or state population here.


  • Mark Gisleson

    Obviously the folks at the Census Bureau aren’t sports fans. If the point of the game is to have the most population, then their seedings make no sense.

    Top population seeds in this game go to:

    Grand Rapids (MI)


    San Jose




    Albany (with L.A. as a bottom seed?)


    At first I thought maybe they meant population growth, but that’s not what it says at the link source, and that still wouldn’t make any sense since Cincy and Baltimore have been in decline for decades.

    Someone put in a lot of work on a joke that doesn’t really make any sense.

  • Ray

    Mark – you are over thinking this. If they put the seeds in order of population, it wouldn’t be much of a game. Its just to get people to think about geography and population – and compare scores with friends to see who knows more about the US.

    Although a version based on population growth would be a lot of fun.

  • Bismuth

    Actually, it looks like the city order is randomized, so I don’t think there was any attempt to seed the cities.

  • kennedy

    50 out of 63 without using references

    If they were seeded in order, the game wouldn’t be any fun.

  • Mark Gisleson

    OK, I can see the point of not seeding, but the brackets are broken in other ways. The answers are already known!

    If the Census folks really wanted to build interest, they’d do this based on population growth over a set period of time. It could be a great geography promo for kids with winners getting trips to DC or something.

    Seriously, I’ve seen restaurant place mats for kids with better quizzes.

  • Mark Gisleson

    I’d kind of like to retract my comments having now realized it was an interactive game and having played it, but it’s still not a good game.

    Knowing which cities are biggest is incredibly arcane because the real question is which metro areas are largest. Do you care that Dallas is bigger than Minneapolis, or do you care more that the Twin Cities are only half as large as Dallas-Ft. Worth? To win you have to know how much of each metro area is suburbs and how much is core inner city. An artificial distinction that only a census wonk or gerrimanderer could love.

    The Census folks are piggybacking on March Madness but the only real tie-in is the brackets form, which they’ve turned inside out.

  • Cara

    The brackets are randomized each time you open the map. 1st time Mpls was ‘against’ Rochester, 2nd time ‘against’ Austin.

    Yes, I did it twice.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Really, these are my worst comments ever. Finally did a close reading and realized they were metro areas, not the actual cities. Had I read that better, I might have done better than a score of 48.

    I still think they could get kids interested in this stuff if they put some real thought into it and made it a four-year high school contest with students winning if they picked population gainers over a four-year period (each school year you’d get your form back graded by that year’s population gains so you could do the next round).

  • Justin

    51 – Way off on a couple, but some were no-brainers. Definitely a “time-waster”, but good fun nonetheless.

  • Xopher

    I think Mark wins. He obviously wasted the most time. 😉

  • Mark Gisleson

    Xopher, I win that contest every day.