1) Blog: Redefining Urban Areas following the 2020 Census (12.22.22)
“Urban” and “rural” are terms that bring to mind specific kinds of landscapes—densely developed areas in the case of urban, and small towns, farms and open spaces in the case of rural. While we can all think of specific areas in each category, it’s important to have a consistent measure to define these areas in order to produce meaningful data.
After each decennial census, the U.S. Census Bureau redefines both areas, providing an important baseline for analyzing the distribution and characteristics of urban and rural populations and economic activity. We periodically review the criteria defining urban and rural areas to make sure the distinctions continue to be relevant for analysis, planning and decision making. We do this by publishing Federal Register Notices – first to gather feedback and then to notify the public of the changes in criteria.
In this post, we discuss several key changes to the urban area criteria we have made by incorporating learnings from analysis of 2010 Census urban areas, changes in settlement patterns, and discussions with users of our urban and rural classification.
Following the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau defined two types of urban areas:
Urbanized areas with a population of 50,000 or more.
Urban clusters with at least 2,500 but fewer than 50,000 people.
Both areas were defined based on population density measured at the census tract and block levels. We used two population density thresholds in the delineation process: 1,000 people per square mile when delineating the initial urban core and then 500 people per square mile to finish out the delineation as we moved outward through suburban territory to the edge of the urban area.
In 2010, nearly 81% of the U.S. population was urban and approximately 19% was rural.
After the 2020 Census, there are three key changes to the Census Bureau’s urban area concept and criteria:
-- We increased the minimum population threshold to qualify as urban from 2,500 to 5,000, and we added an alternative: instead of qualifying based on population size, areas can now qualify based on a minimum housing unit threshold.
-- We now use housing unit density instead of population density.
-- We no longer distinguish between different types of urban areas.
The first two changes reflect a general shift by the Census Bureau toward using housing units to measure urbanization and identify qualifying urban areas. Each of these criteria changes is described more below. . . .
2) Dec 29 [news release] Nation’s Urban and Rural Populations Shift Following 2020 Census
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, according to the new list of urban areas released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Despite the increase in the urban population, urban areas, defined as densely developed residential, commercial, and other nonresidential areas, now account for 80.0% of the U.S. population, down from 80.7% in 2010. This small decline was largely the result of changes to the criteria for defining urban areas implemented by the Census Bureau, including raising the minimum population threshold for qualification from 2,500 to 5,000. The rural population — the population in any areas outside of those classified as urban — increased as a percentage of the national population from 19.3% in 2010 to 20.0% in 2020.
This is not a sign of substantial urban to rural migration – these shifts in proportions are largely the result of changes to the criteria.
Consistent with previous decennial censuses, changes were made to criteria classifying urban areas following the 2020 Census. Key changes to the Census Bureau’s urban area concept and criteria include:
-- The use of housing unit density instead of solely population density. The minimum population threshold to qualify as urban increased from 2,500 to 5,000 or a minimum housing unit threshold of 2,000 housing units.
-- The jump distance was reduced from 2.5 miles to 1.5 miles for 2020. Jump distance is the distance along roads used to connect high-density urban territories surrounded by rural territory.
-- No longer distinguishing between urbanized areas and urban clusters. All qualifying areas are designated urban areas.
As a result of these changes, 1,140 areas containing approximately 4.2 million people, classified as urban in 2010 are now rural.
Due to urban growth, urban areas have grown denser, changing from an average population density of 2,343 in 2010 to 2,553 in 2020. Additionally, 225 urban areas qualify based on the 2020 housing unit threshold that would not have qualified based on the new population threshold alone.
Based on 2020 Census data, the Census Bureau identified 36 new urban areas that were classified as rural in 2010.
3) Differences between the Final 2020 Census Urban Area Criteria and the 2010 Census Urban Area Criteria
4) Urban and Rural -- Census Bureau
5) FRN: 2020 Census Qualifying Urban Areas and Final Criteria Clarifications
The Bureau of the Census (Census Bureau) delineates urban areas after each decennial census for the purpose of tabulating and presenting data for the urban and rural population and housing within the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Island Areas. The Census Bureau delineated the 2020 urban areas based on 2020 Census of Population and Housing counts and density calculations. The Census Bureau's delineation of 2020 urban areas also accounted for non-residential urban land uses, such as commercial, industrial, transportation, and open space that are part of the urban landscape as outlined in the urban area criteria published in the Federal Register on March 24, 2022. This Notice provides the list of areas that qualified as urban based on the results of the 2020 Census for the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Island Areas. The designation of “rural” encompasses any population, housing, and territory not included in an urban area. Publication of this Notice constitutes the Census Bureau's official announcement of the list of qualifying urban areas for reference by all data users. This Notice also provides clarifications to the Census Bureau's criteria for defining urban areas as published in the Federal Register on March 24, 2022. The clarifications make the criteria easier to understand and interpret consistently and are in accordance with the Census Bureau's concept and delineation of urban areas for the 2020 Census.
The Census Bureau defines urban areas using an objective and nationally consistent approach designed to meet the analysis needs of a broad range of users interested in the definition of, and data for, urban and rural communities for statistical purposes. The Census Bureau recognizes that some federal and state agencies use this urban-rural classification for allocating program funds, setting program standards, and implementing aspects of their various programs. The agencies that use the classification and data for such non-statistical purposes should be aware that these clarifications to the urban area criteria may affect the implementation of their programs.
While the Census Bureau is not responsible for the use of its urban-rural classification in non-statistical programs, we will work with tribal, federal, state, and local agencies and other stakeholders as appropriate, to ensure understanding of our classification. Agencies using the classification for their programs are responsible for ensuring that the classification is appropriate for their use. . . .
This section of the Notice provides clarifications and additional information regarding the 2020 Census urban area criteria published in the Federal Register on March 24, 2022 (87 FR 16706). These clarifications and information are provided in response to questions received after the publication of the 2020 Census urban area criteria and to address necessary issues identified during the process of delineating the 2020 Census urban areas. Some issues identified during the delineation process interactive review conducted by Census Bureau subject matter experts were resolved via the addition, removal, or transfer of census blocks to or from urban areas. . . .