Information on the incidence of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is limited; incidence rates for multiple system atrophy (MSA) are not available. We studied the incidence of PSP and MSA in Olmsted County, Minnesota, for the years 1976 to 1990. This study was part of a larger investigation of all forms of parkinsonism. We used the medical records-linkage system of the Rochester Epidemiology Project to identify all subjects whose records contained documentation of any from of parkinsonism, related neurodegenerative diseases, or tremor of any type. A nurse abstractor screened the records and, when applicable, a neurologist reviewed them to determine the presence or absence of parkinsonism. Cases of parkinsonism were classified using specified diagnostic criteria. Population denominators were derived from census data and were corrected by removing prevalent cases of parkinsonism. Over the 15 years of the study, we found 16 incident cases of PSP and nine incident cases of MSA. No cases of PSP or MSA had onset before age 50 years. The average annual incidence rate (new cases per 100,000 person-years) for ages 50 to 99 years was 5.3 for PSP and 3.0 for MSA. The incidence of PSP increased steeply with age from 1.7 at 50 to 59 years to 14.7 at 80 to 99 years, and was consistently higher in men. Median survival time from symptom onset was 5.3 years for PSP and 8.5 years for MSA. The incidence of PSP increases with age and is consistently higher in men at all ages. PSP and MSA are more common than previously recognized.