Rural: Where Is It Anyway?
There are almost as many definitions of "rural" as there are persons who use the definition. Most often rural is identified by default when defining that which is urban.
To help clarify the most commonly used definitions of "urban" and "rural," the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health has compiled this resource list. What follows are the definitions developed by the organizations that provide the authoritative definitions of rural and urban: the U.S. Census Bureau, the Office of Management and Budget, the WWAMI Rural Health Research Center, and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Maps showing how the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is defined using the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census data are provided to allow for comparison.
The Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for developing the maps and provided updated information. Thanks also are extended to key staff within the Bureau of Health Planning in the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration for their careful review of the content.
For more information, please contact the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health at 814-863-8214 or to email@example.com
The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services' Health Resources and Services Administration has funded the development of the
Rural Urban Commuting Area Codes (RUCAs), by the WWAMI Rural Research Center at the
University of Washington and the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, to
designate "Rural" areas within Metropolitan Areas. Census tracts with RUCA codes 4
through 10 are considered to be rural for the purposes of grants administered through
the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. The WWAMI Rural Research Center has
mapped Census Tracts to ZIP codes. Organizations whose headquarters are in the
designated ZIP codes are eligible to apply for grants administered through the Federal Office
of Rural Health Policy, provided they meet all other requirements. More information on
RUCAs is available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/Rurality/RuralUrbanCommutingAreas/
or at http://www.fammed.washington.edu/wwamirhrc/rucas/rucas.html
What is Urban and What is Rural?
Source: Bureau of the Census
For Census 2000, the Census Bureau classifies as "urban" all territory, population, and housing units located within an urbanized area (UA) or an urban cluster (UC). It delineates UA and UC boundaries to encompass densely settled territory, which consists of:
; core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1,000
people per square mile and
; surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per
In addition, under certain conditions, less densely settled territory may be part of each UA or UC.
The Census Bureau's classification of "rural" consists of all territory, population, and housing units located outside of UAs and UCs. The rural component contains both place and nonplace territory. Geographic entities, such as census tracts, counties, metropolitan areas, and the territory outside metropolitan areas, often are "split" between urban and rural territory and the population and housing units they contain often are partly classified as urban and partly classified as rural.