Economic Research Service

Rural–Urban Continuum

Economic Research Service

Codes Urban Influence Codes

Nonmetropolitan rural population (codes 8 and 9) = 5.2 million, 1.8 percent of total population.

Nonmetropolitan rural population (codes 11 and 12) = 3.2 million, 8.1 percent of total population.

Although the rural–urban continuum codes and urban influence codes do not include parameters for frontier areas, the USDA ERS uses the following definition for measurements: frontier areas = 7 households per square mile.

Frontier population = 2.9 million,c 1.0 percent of total population.

c Calculations are based on the county’s average density per square mile, and in some cases the county may contain a small town. Methods for measuring solely those living in frontier areas of <7 households per square mile (rather than averages of county statistics) are being developed at this time.

SOURCE: ERS, 2003a; FR, 2000.

infrastructure to meet the needs of their current population, let alone their projected future population assuming current growth trends continue.

A significant geographic trend is the decline in population in nonmetropolitan counties of the Great Plains from the Canadian border to south Texas, with a continuing high dependence on agriculture. These areas have experienced prolonged outmigration of young adults, resulting in higher proportions of older people and increasing problems with access to medical services. About 313 counties have no urban settlement of 10,000 or more and are not adjacent to a county having such a place. The population density averages 4.2 persons per square mile. These residents experience the core of the rural medical access problems related to scale of settlement discussed in this report. Some hospitals and pharmacies have closed, and residents are more distant from physicians, with less choice of providers.

Persistent decline is also found in parts of the lower South where there is a significant population of African Americans or there has been a major drop in coal mining jobs. The populations in parts of the Allegheny and Cumberland Plateaus have declined as well because of sustained losses in the manufacturing sector.

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