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Urban and Rural Classification


A Century of Classification: The Census Bureau’s Urban and Rural Classification, 1910-2010 Michael Ratcliffe Geography Division U.S. Census Bureau Urban and Rural Classification ? The Census Bureau has officially defined urban areas since the 1910 census. ? The Census Bureau identifies urban and rural population, housing, and territory solely for the purpose of statistical presentation and comparison. ? Urban areas are defined following each decennial census using population counts. ? The Census Bureau’s definition of ―urban‖ has evolved to keep pace with changes in settlement patterns as well as changes in theoretical approaches to interpreting and understanding the growth of urban areas. 2 Urban and Rural Classification ? Prior to each census, we review and revise, if necessary, the criteria used to define urban areas. ? Periodic review ensures the continued usefulness and relevance for statistical data tabulation and analysis. ? Periodic review also ensures that the delineation process utilizes the best possible data, procedures, and methodologies. ? Despite criteria changes, the common theme across all decades has been to identify the built-up, densely settled urban landscape. 3 Urban and Rural: 1874 through 1906 ? 1874 through 1900, two population thresholds used to identify urban places: 4,000 and 8,000 ? 1906 Supplementary Analysis: ―urban‖ defined officially as including incorporated places as well as New England towns with 2,500 or more inhabitants. ? ―Rura

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