Functional Region: Definition and Examples

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Functional regions often overstep local, state, or even national boundaries. This ScienceStruck article tells you what a functional region is, with the help of its definition and some examples.

Did You Know?
The boundaries of functional regions change with time, depending on the development of infrastructure and services in the area. In geography, the Earth is divided into different ‘regions’. These regions use artificial boundaries that segregate areas based on some property which is more common inside the boundary than that outside it. There are three types of regions: formal, functional, and vernacular or perceptual. Formal regions are those that have official boundaries, such as countries, states, and cities. Perceptual regions are those that are influenced by the cultural representation of a particular area, and are based on the shared opinions of people. Examples of such areas include the ‘Midwest’, and the ‘Big Apple’ in the US. Let us now see the definition of a functional region, to understand what it is.

Functional Region: Definition

A functional region is an area organized around a central hub or focal point. The surrounding places depend on the central hub by political, social, and economic ties, like trade routes, radio and television networks, internet connectivity, and transportation. To be classified as a functional region, the entire area must have one common characteristic activity. The maximum occurrence of this activity is in the focal point, and it steadily diminishes as one goes away from this point. A functional region is characterized by a continuous flow to and from the central hub, and the areas surrounding it. Thus, the entire region behaves as a unit where one particular activity is concerned.

Functional Region: Examples

Newspaper Circulation

Where the circulation of a local newspaper is concerned, a city and its suburbs can be considered as one functional region. The city itself serves as a central hub where the newspaper’s editorial and publishing offices are located, and it is connected by various routes to the suburbs. These routes include a flow of information from the suburbs to the newspaper office, and the circulation of newspapers from the office to the suburbs. The maximum readership of the newspaper lies within the city, and decreases towards the suburbs, where people may choose to read newspapers from another neighboring city too. Places where the circulation figures of the newspaper are equal to that of a newspaper of a neighboring city, serve as the boundary of the region.

Departmental Store

A departmental store draws customers from a particular trade area, which can be called its functional region. In this case, the focal point is represented by the places nearest to the store. Obviously, this is the area which will have the most number of customers, as people tend to shop from nearby stores. As the distance from the store increases, its customer base goes on reducing, and people from the farthest areas have the choice of shopping from this store or going to another one too. This region represents the boundary of the functional region. This store is, thus, connected to its surrounding areas via trade routes and transportation networks.

Metropolitan Area

A metropolitan area is a good example of a functional region, where the central hub is the innermost part which is densely populated and has a high number of industries offering employment. This hub is connected to its surrounding regions by communication pathways, trade, and transport routes, as people undertake daily commutes to reach their place of employment in the central hub. Thus, metropolitan areas are functional regions in which surrounding areas are connected to an urban center by commerce and employment pathways. In several countries, including the US, metropolitan areas encompass territories of multiple cities, suburbs, districts, or even states, and play an important economic and political role. An example is the Dallas/Forth Worth Metropolitan area in the US, where the two cities of Dallas and Forth Worth are linked by a common airport between them which serves as the central hub.

School District

A school district is a functional region which has a higher concentration of schools. These schools form the nodal point which draws students from different parts of a city, thus interlinking these areas. Since the students have to commute to school daily, the central hub is connected to the surrounding areas by transportation routes. The higher number of schools will draw more residents to the area, while retaining the earlier residents. These social factors ensure a match between the characteristics of schools with the needs of the local community. Statistics indicate that school districts are more socioeconomically homogenous as compared to political units like counties.


Harbors can serve as the focal point of a larger functional region along the coast. Since such areas receive a large number of tourists, it leads to a growth of jobs, infrastructure, local trades like fishing and handicrafts, etc. People drawn to the ports can be either tourists or those who seek employment in the tourism industry. Thus, the central hub is interlinked to the other areas in the functional region by transport, communication, and trade routes. As the distance from the hub increases, tourists can decide if they want to visit the port or go somewhere else. Similarly, people living far away from the port may choose to seek employment elsewhere.

Television Station

A television station serves as the focal point of a functional region, which is the area that receives signals from it. Obviously, places nearest to the station receive the strongest signal, which decreases in strength as the distance from the station increases. Places which lie outside the coverage area of the station have to receive signals from another station, which forms another functional region. In such functional regions, the different places are linked to the central hub (station) by communication routes.

Branch Banks

A branch bank is a way to ensure that banking services can be made available to people in their own region or locality, away from the home branch of the bank. In this branching system, the bank establishes a number of branches, each of which caters to specific parts of a larger target area. So, in this case, the area covered by a particular branch can be classified as a functional region, where people living within its boundaries can opt to use its services. Most customers are drawn from localities closest to the bank, which represents the central hub of the region. As one goes farther from the bank, its customer base tends to decrease. People living outside the area served by the bank can choose to use the services of another branch too.

It is important to note that, unlike formal regions, functional regions may not be homogenous in terms of features like climate, language, religion, or population, but are consistent in terms of organization, where the focal point is the chief binding factor.

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