Recent reports indicate that community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are increasing and may now involve persons without risk factors predisposing for acquisition. To estimate the extent of community MRSA in New York City, the prevalence of S. aureus and MRSA nasal colonization in a well-patient population of 500 children and guardians was determined. The prevalence of S. aureus nasal carriage was 35% for children and 28% for guardians. One person with predisposing risk factors was colonized with an MRSA, which was identified as the predominant clone found in New York City hospitals. A high degree of methicillin-susceptible S. aureus strain diversity was noted, with no apparent selection for specific clonal types. Thus, MRSA colonization is not ubiquitous in persons without predisposing risk outside of the health care environment. Bacterial competition and a lack of strong selection may limit the community spread of MRSA and can account for its sporadic distribution.