The New Urban Geography

.. the nation’s urban population increased by 6.4% between 2010 and 2020 based on 2020 Census data and a change in the way urban areas are defined. As a result of these changes, 1,140 areas containing approximately 4.2 million people, classified as urban in 2010 are now rural. See more about the 2020 urban/rural geography/population. See more about the urban population.

Patterns of the New Urban Geography

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As of 2020, there are 2,613 Urban Areas in the U.S. with a combined Census 2020 population of 265,149,027 (80%). The remaining area is defined as rural with Census 2020 population of 66,300,254 (20%).
  • Use this interactive table to view, sort urban areas.
  • Use this interactive table to view, sort states by 2010/2020 urban/rural.

These Federal designated urban areas are comprised of densely settled core of census blocks that meet minimum housing unit density and/or population density requirements. This includes adjacent territory containing non-residential urban land uses. To qualify as an urban area, the territory identified according to criteria must encompass at least 2,000 housing units or a population of at least 5,000. Rural encompasses all population, housing, and territory not included within urban areas.

Importance of Urban/Rural Designations
Data users and researchers interested in analyzing data for urban and rural population and housing use urban area geostatistical data routinely updated by statistical agencies. Analysts use urban area data to study patterns of urbanization, suburban growth and development, and urban/rural land area change.

Larger Urban Areas form the nucleus of Core-Based Statistical Areas (metros). Many metro areas (one or more contiguous counties) contain large rural areas even though some consider metros as large cities. Importantly, they are not the same.

Various federal and state agencies use urban and rural definitions as the basis for their own urban and rural definitions and settlement classifications for use in tabulating and presenting statistical data. The National Center for Education Statistics uses the urban area definitions in its locale codes classification. The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses the urban area classification as the basis for various urban and rural classifications used to analyze and report on demographic and economic patterns in rural areas.

Other government agencies use Urban Area designations to determine program eligibility and in their funding formulas. The Federal Highways Administration uses urban areas of 50,000 or more population to establish Metropolitan Planning Organizations. For rural health programs, a clinic qualifies as a rural health clinic if it is located outside the boundaries of any urban area.

GeoSpatial Analysis of New Urban Geography
Use the VDA Web GIS to examine urban/rural area geographic, demographic and economic make-up and in context of other geography and subject matter.

Urban Areas in the Houston, TX Region

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VDA Web GIS is a decision-making information resource designed to help stakeholders create and apply insight. Use VDA Web GIS with only a Web browser; nothing to install; GIS experience not required. VDA Web GIS has been developed and is maintained by Warren Glimpse, ProximityOne (Alexandria, VA) and Takashi Hamilton, Tsukasa Consulting (Osaka, Japan).

About the Author
Warren Glimpse is former senior Census Bureau statistician responsible for national scope statistical programs and innovative data access and use operations. He is also the former associate director of the U.S. Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards for data access and use. He has more than 20 years of experience in the private sector developing data resources and tools for integration and analysis of geographic, demographic, economic and business data. Join Warren on LinkedIn.

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