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Rethinking Urban-Rural and the Barriers Between Statistical and Programmatic Uses. Michael Ratcliffe , Census Bureau John Cromartie , Economic Research Service. Introduction.

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rethinking urban rural and the barriers between statistical and programmatic uses

Rethinking Urban-Rural and the Barriers Between Statistical and Programmatic Uses

Michael Ratcliffe, Census Bureau

John Cromartie, Economic Research Service

introduction
Introduction
  • The Census Bureau does not take programmatic uses into account when developing statistical geographic area concepts or when delineating areas.
  • It is important to maintain this separation; we cannot allow concepts to be degraded by program-specific needs, desires, and local biases.
  • But, recent experience has suggested that we should start a conversation about the interplay between statistical geography for data tabulation/presentation and uses related to policy making and program implementation.
what we heard in response to the 2010 proposed urban area criteria
What we heard in response to the 2010 proposed urban area criteria
  • Local planning agencies/transportation planners expressed concerns about changes to boundaries and criteria and impacts on long range planning
  • Questions raised about the Census Bureau's urban area definitions and the way in which local and state planning groups define and perceive urban areas
  • Desire for a closer relationship between the urban area concept and criteria and uses in programs and planning
  • More outreach and discussion with groups using urban/rural definitions for long range planning and policy analysis
urban and rural in the united states
Urban and Rural in the United States

How do we define “urban” and “rural?”

  • Classifications tend to be dichotomous:
    • Urban and Rural;
    • Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan
    • Rural/nonmetropolitan are residual categories
  • Classifications tend to describe:
    • Form (settlement patterns); or
    • Function (economic and social relationships)
census bureau s urban rural classification
Census Bureau’s Urban-Rural Classification
  • The Census Bureau identifies and classifies urban and rural areas after each decennial census.
  • Urban areas of at least 2,500 people have been identified since 1906.
  • Urbanized areas of 50,000 or more people were first defined for the 1950 Census. Urban places of at least 2,500 people were identified outside urbanized areas. Urban clusters of 2,500 - 49,999 were first defined after Census 2000.
  • The Census Bureau identifies urban and rural areas solely for the purpose of tabulating and presenting statistical data.
questions for consideration
Questions for consideration
  • Do we define urban and rural areas solely for tabulation and dissemination of data about urban and rural populations?
  • Or, to provide baseline definitions for use in policy analysis and planning?
  • Are the categories and entities we define, and the criteria used to define them, adequate for planning and policy needs?
  • How do we manage situations in which program-specific definitions create contradictory goals, comments on proposed criteria, and desired outcomes among local organizations in the same area?
considerations for the future
Considerations for the Future
  • Develop an urban-rural continuum identifying the variety of urban, suburban, exurban, and rural landscapes.
    • Rather than creating a new classification, is there a way to leverage existing classifications to create a continuum?
  • Identify functional relationships between urban areas.
    • Combined Urban Areas
  • Identify urban sub-regions or subdivisions within larger agglomerations.
exurban development rural howard county maryland baltimore towson metropolitan statistical area
Exurban development: rural Howard County, Maryland, Baltimore-Towson Metropolitan Statistical Area
slide9

Functional ties between urban areas: 33% of workers residing in the Hartselle urban cluster worked within the Decatur urbanized area, according to Census 2000 data.

Decatur, AL

Daily commuting flow

Hartselle, AL

defining rural is a challenge for usda
Defining rural is a challenge for USDA
  • We share a common image of rural—open countryside and small towns at some distance from major urban centers—but lack a common definition.
  • Establishing a common definition is difficult…
    • drawing a line through a continuum
    • suburbs combine urban and rural elements
    • gentle gradations are a U.S. hallmark
  • …and needlessly limiting
    • research on rural issues requires different perspectives
    • federal programs need to target different populations
slide12

Defining rural is a challenge for USDA

  • Dozens of definitions exist
    • Census Bureau
    • Office of Management and Budget
    • USDA
    • HUD, HHS, States, ngo’s, researchers
  • BUT: All of the differences boil down to two questions:
  • For any given urban entity, where is the boundary?
  • What is the minimum population size for an entity to be considered urban?
question 1 for any given urban entity where is the boundary
Question 1: For any given urban entity, where is the boundary?

Three concepts of urban lead to different boundaries:

  • Administrative: cities are legal entities defined along municipal or other jurisdictional boundaries
    • Census Places
  • Land-use: cities are densely-settled territory—the picture of settlement you get from an airplane
    • Census Urban Areas
  • Economic: cities are labor markets—commuting areas extend well beyond densely settled cores
    • OMB Metro Areas
question 2 what is the minimum population size for an entity to be considered urban
Question 2: What is the minimum population size for an entity to be considered urban?
  • Any rural definition includes some set of towns and villages below a chosen population threshold:
    • Census Bureau: 2,500
    • USDA Rural Utilities Program: 10,000
    • USDA Rural Housing: 25,000
    • OMB: 50,000
question 2 what is the minimum population size for an entity to be considered urban1
Question 2: What is the minimum population size for an entity to be considered urban?
  • Massive urbanization in the 20th Century dramatically increased the average size of cities and concentrated services into larger regional centers.
  • Most rural areas are no longer economically organized around towns of 2,500, but are more typically centered around Micropolitan Areas
  • This argues for higher urban-size thresholds compared with 100 years ago, when higher levels of central-place services were available in smaller towns.
question 2 what is the minimum population size for an entity to be considered urban2
Question 2: What is the minimum population size for an entity to be considered urban?
  • Research offers limited guidance on choosing an appropriate threshold—not enough work applying central place theory
  • USDA has adjusted eligibility thresholds upward over the years
  • Census urban-size threshold (2,500) unchanged from horse-and-buggy days
conclusions
Conclusions
  • Potential to improve efficiency of federal programs
  • Multiple definitions serve multiple purposes
  • Choices should be driven by goals:
    • Tracking sprawl
    • Studying economic impacts
    • Providing rural housing subsidies
    • Making rural business loans