Rural area

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In general, a rural area is a geographic area that is located outside cities and towns.[1] The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines the word "rural" as encompassing "...all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area. Whatever is not urban is considered rural."[2]

Typical rural areas have a low population density and small settlements. Agricultural areas are commonly rural, though so are others such as forests. Different countries have varying definitions of "rural" for statistical and administrative purposes.

North America[edit]

In Canada, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines a “predominantly rural region” as having more than 50% of the population living in rural communities where a “rural community” has a population density less than 150 persons per square kilometre. In Canada, the census division has been used to represent “regions” and census consolidated sub-divisions have been used to represent “communities”. Intermediate regions have 15 to 49 percent of their population living in a rural community. Predominantly urban regions have less than 15 percent of their population living in a rural community. Predominantly rural regions are classified as rural metro-adjacent, rural non-metro-adjacent and rural northern, following Ehrensaft and Beeman (1992). Rural metro-adjacent regions are predominantly rural census divisions which are adjacent to metropolitan centres while rural non-metro-adjacent regions are those predominantly rural census divisions which are not adjacent to metropolitan centres. Rural northern regions are predominantly rural census divisions that are found either entirely or mostly above the following lines of parallel in each province: Newfoundland and Labrador, 50th; Quebec 54,Ontario, 54th; Manitoba, 53rd; Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, 54th. As well, rural northern regions encompass all of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Statistics Canada defines rural for their population counts. This definition has changed over time (see Appendix A in du Plessis et al., 2002). Typically, it has referred to the population living outside settlements of 1,000 or less inhabitants. The current definition states that census rural is the population outside settlements with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants and a population density below 400 people per square kilometre (Statistics Canada, 2007).

United States[edit]

84 percent of the United States' inhabitants live in suburban and urban areas,[3] but cities occupy only 10 percent of the country. Rural areas occupy the remaining 90 percent.[4] The U.S. Census Bureau, the USDA's Economic Research Service, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have come together to help define rural areas. United States Census Bureau: The Census Bureau definitions (new to the 2000 census), which are based on population density, defines rural areas as all territory outside of Census Bureau-defined urbanized areas and urban clusters. *An urbanized area consists of a central surrounding areas whose population ("urban nucleus") is greater than 50,000. They may or may not contain individual cities with 50,000 or more; rather, they must have a core with a population density generally exceeding 1,000 persons per square mile; and may contain adjoining territory with at least 500 persons per square mile (other towns outside of an urbanized area whose population exceeds 2,500). *Thus, rural areas comprise open country and settlements with fewer than 2,500 residents; areas designated as rural can have population densities as high as 999 per square mile or as low as 1 person per square mile.[5] USDA:* The USDA's Office of Rural Development may define rural by various population thresholds. The 2002 farm bill (P.L. 107-171, Sec. 6020) defined rural and rural area as any area other than (1) a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants, and (2) the urbanized areas contiguous and adjacent to such a city or town. * The rural-urban continuum codes, urban influence code, and rural county typology codes developed by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) allow researchers to break out the standard metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas into smaller residential groups.[5] For example, a metropolitan county is one that contains an urbanized area, or one that has a twenty-five percent commuter rate to an urbanized area regardless of population. OMB: Under the Core Based Statistical Areas used by the OMB (commonly referred to as 'CBSA Codes'),[6] * a metropolitan county, or Metropolitan Statistical Area, consists of (1) central counties with one or more urbanized areas (as defined by the Census Bureau) and (2) outlying counties that are economically tied to the core counties as measured by worker commuting data (i.e. if 25% of workers living there commute to the core counties, or if 25% of the employment in the county consists of workers coming from the central counties). * Non-metro counties are outside the boundaries of metro areas and are further subdivided into Micropolitan Statistical Areas centered on urban clusters of 10,000-50,000 residents, and all remaining non-core counties.[5][7]

It is expected that the USDA will be updating their rural / non-rural area definitions based on the 2010 Census counts.[6]

Rural schools[edit]

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) revised its definition of rural schools in 2006 after working with the Census Bureau to create a new locale classification system to capitalize on improved geocoding technology.

Rural health[edit]

Rural health definitions can be different for establishing under-served areas or health care accessibility in rural areas of the United States. According to the handbook, Definitions of Rural: A Handbook for Health Policy Makers and Researchers, “Residents of metropolitan counties are generally thought to have easy access to the relatively concentrated health services of the county’s central areas. However, some metropolitan counties are so large that they contain small towns and rural, sparsely populated areas that are isolated from these central clusters and their corresponding health services by physical barriers.” To address this type of rural area, “Harold Goldsmith, Dena Puskin, and Dianne Stiles (1992) described a methodology to identify small towns and rural areas within large metropolitan counties (LMCs) that were isolated from central areas by distance or other physical features.” This became the Goldsmith Modification definition of rural. “Bhoomeet rural education The Goldsmith Modification has been useful for expanding the eligibility for federal programs that assist rural populations—to include the isolated rural populations of large metropolitan counties.”

Rural Gender[edit]

About Rural Gender[edit]

Gender in rural areas can be separated from other areas of the United States because of how it is seen by society. In order to further explain this there needs to be an understanding first of what gender is. Gender is described in the text book The Kaleidoscope of Gender as "central to the intricate patterning of social life, ad encompasses power relations,the division of labor, symbolic forms, and emotional relations" (3).[8] Using this as a basis for what gender is, we can now look at the roles it plays in the sense of views on gender, ideas that gender creates, and the roles it plays in society based on social norms.

Views on Gender[edit]

When looking at views on gender in rural areas it is seen differently by each individual person, but as a whole there are some stereotypical viewpoints that rural areas carry. Since gender is a role that is taught by society and each individual sex is pressured by society to preform that role for their sex, explaining the gender roles in rural America is important. Many times the terms gender and sex are used interchangeably, when that is technically not true by definition. It is important to keep in mind, as the website The Gender Spectrum [9] has noted that gender is not connected to a person’s anatomy. For women there was a big center around being in the household and taking care of children. This was different when World War II occurred because that is the beginning of women taking on jobs outside the home. They assumed the lead position on the farms and it outside income jobs such as secretaries or other office related activities, nurses, or teachers. These jobs are also called pink collar jobs, or jobs that are more for the purpose of care giving as the article Family in Troubled Times has stated. Today there is still a divide in women and men’s roles in the rural sector. As described in the International Labor Organization, “the poorest of the poor are often women and young girls who lack regular and decent employment, and who may face hunger and/or malnutrition, and poor access to health, education and productive assets.” [10] They explain that women benefit less from rural employment then men do, possibly be related to the fact that these jobs are more labor jobs rather than office jobs. When it comes to the male’s role in the rural areas there are differences regarding the fact that males should be the ones who own the assets, work outside the home, and can manage certain jobs that are believed that women cannot manage. The International Labor Organization also mentioned that socially and sometimes even legally a woman will not gain property or inheritance rights and that it would go to a male.[10] This puts women at another downfall when it comes to economic empowerment. Overall the socially acceptable idea that a woman is in the household sphere and that the male is in the working sphere remains that same in many rural areas.

Roles of Men and Women[edit]

The next aspect to gender is the idea that these gender norms can help create and expand on as the idea of gender continues to be taught. A very important one that goes off of the roles of men and women is that a woman would not be able to handle owning property or even managing assets that are outside the home and are of economic value. This is why the International Labor Organization has emphasized that women are being treated at a disadvantage when they are not even trusted to own property that could rightfully be theirs. Another norm that has been created through gender that the article Rural geography: rural gender identity and the performance of masculinity and femininity in the countryside [11] is that men have to hold a “macho” appearance thus including them to hold the financial accountability for a family and for the women to hold the domestic title. Jo Little also has said that the rural areas are less inclined to adapt feminist approaches to things such as work or being outside the home. The rural areas are more involved in keeping the males in one general area of work and the women in another. This causes a separation of the sexes and the added pressures of performance to males and females. In the book Families in Troubled Times it was also explained that since the males are seen to have the paid jobs then they are the ones who are supposed to be focused on making sure the family is financially set, during times of economic crisis this puts added pressure on males causing tension in the family. This tension is due to the idea that a women should be taking care of the home and children while the male makes the money, causing a female to feel as if she is taking her job into consideration and a male is not caring.[12] This dynamic leads to problems in the home because the female feels that she is not being financially supported by her spouse. Overall gender norms can cause problems in the way that it limits property ownership to more males and creates a stigma that females are unable to handle higher priced items, also that feminism and other approaches to women working outside the home are harder to adapt because there is the lingering idea that males should have this job, and finally it puts stress on both males and females because they feel that the other is lacking if the and needs of the family are not met in one genders social jobs.

Gender Confusion[edit]

The final aspect of gender that creates problems in rural areas society is gender confusion. While many people do not have a problem identifying their gender with their sex, there are many that do. This is not widely accepted in rural America as it is in other parts of the United States. This is where the idea of a spectrum becomes relevant, which is explained on The Gender Spectrum website.[9] They explain that this gender spectrum “of anatomical variations by itself should be enough to disregard the simplistic notion of only two genders”.[9] They are trying to enforce the fact that these gender norms, though they seem simple, are too simple for society and that it lacks the visibility to individuals being able to expresses themselves in the way that they deem personalized in order to meet the needs of societies ideas of gender, or as it is simply put according to the website “like other social constructs, gender is closely monitored by society”. Males live with this stigma that they have to be described as tough, strong and able to endure various elements of life, as well as keep emotion to a minimum or anything else that matter that shows weakness. Women on the other hand are supposed to do just the opposite when the two interchange these identifiers then they become either weak, or to masculine to perform their gender. Jo Little explained this in Rural geography: rural gender identity and the performance of masculinity and femininity in the countryside when he spoke about farmers who had the idea of hard working, tough masculinity were the most successful farmers. Whenever a male stepped out of this idea then he was automatically deemed as not masculine. When looking at people who do not identify in their gender the idea of being homophobic steps into place.[11] An article called Explaining Comfort with Homosexuality in Rural America identified that people generally do have homophobia because of the uncertainty of it, the lack of learning about it and overall the fear of AIDS.[13] People are not as inclined to accept it because of the lack of knowledge and the break in social norms that this feeling brings. When looking at the big picture of gender confusion in rural areas is it is too complex to be divided into two categories, also that acting in the other gender can be seen as something to frown upon and different to what society expects out of someone causing them to become alienated from others. Finally, the idea that this is something that is not unheard of but rarely talked about, almost making it unaccepted.



The country is divided into 402 administrative districts; these consist of 295 rural districts, and 107 urban districts. Germany is among the largest agricultural producers in the European Union. More than half of Germany's territory - almost 19 million hectares – is used for farming, and are located in the rural areas. German farmers and their work constitute a distinctive feature of its landscapes, so are considered to be an integral part of life in rural areas. They are important because there is hardly any other economic sector in which tradition and progress are so closely linked. Almost every tenth gainfully employed person in Germany has work linked directly or indirectly with the agricultural, forest and fisheries sectors; approximately a fifth of them are employed in primary production. This is why rural areas are considered to be important as urban areas, and all efforts are made to develop them equally. The implication is that, unlike in some other European countries, where rural areas are known for being backward when compared to urban areas, in Germany, the trend is changing. Due to the country's policy of equal living conditions, this is not the case in Germany. Rural areas receive nearly equivalent attention as the urban areas do. Also, through a special approach to rural development, usually referred to as Village Renewal, the challenges of rural Germany are taken care of.[14]


Ireland is traditionally seen as a very rural country, despite its many vibrant and urban centres. Most of the work that occurs is agricultural work[citation needed], with a varying landscape ranging from bogland to emerald meadows to green hills to rugged mountains.

United Kingdom[edit]

A typical countryside scene in rural Yorkshire Dales, England.

In Britain, "rural" is defined[15] by the government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), using population data from the latest census, such as the United Kingdom Census 2001. These definitions have various grades, but the upper point is any local government area with less than 26% of its population living in a market town ("market town" being defined as any settlement which has permission to hold a street market). The British countryside, especially in the south of England, is perceived as under threat, and a number of measures including green belts are used to protect it.

Rural health[edit]

An NHS patient is defined as rural if they live more than 5 km (3.1 mi) from either a doctor or a dispensing chemist. This is important for defining whether the patient is expected to collect their own medicines. While doctors' surgeries in towns will not have a dispensing chemist instead expecting patients to use a high-street chemist to purchase their prescription medicines, in rural village surgeries, an NHS dispensary will be built into the same building.


Rural areas are also known as 'countryside' or a 'village' in India. It has a very low density of population. In rural areas, agriculture is the chief source of livelihood along with fishing, cottage industries, pottery etc. The quest to discover the real rural India still continues in great earnest. Almost every economic agency today has a definition of rural India. Here are a few definitions: According to the Planning Commission, a town with a maximum population of 15,000 is considered rural in nature. In these areas the panchayat takes all the decisions. There are five people in the panchayat. The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) defines ‘rural’ as follows:

RBI defines rural areas as those areas with a population of less than 49,000 (tier -3 to tier-6 cities).[16] It is generally said that the rural areas house up to 70% of India’s population. Rural India contributes a big chunk to India’s GDP by way of agriculture, self-employment, services, construction etc. As per a strict measure used by the National Sample Survey in its 63rd round, called monthly per capita expenditure, rural expenditure accounts for 55% of total national monthly expenditure. The rural population currently accounts for one -third of the total Indian FMCG sales.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "WordNet Search - 3.1". Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  2. ^ "Defining the Rural Population". Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  3. ^ Yen, Hope (2011-07-28). "Rural US Disappearing? Population Share Hits Low". Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  4. ^ "Howarth, William. “The Value of Rural Life in American Culture.” Rural Development Perspectives. Vol. 12 No. 1
  5. ^ a b c CRS Report for Congress: Agriculture: A Glossary of Terms, Programs, and Laws, 2005 Edition - Order Code 97-905
  6. ^ a b "". Retrieved 8 February 2013. 
  7. ^ What is Rural? USDA, National Agricultural Library, Rural Information Center.
  8. ^ Spade, J. Z., & Valentine, C. G. (2012). The kaleidoscope of gender: Prisms, patterns, and possibilities. London: Pine Forge Press.
  9. ^ a b c Understanding gender. (2013). Retrieved from
  10. ^ a b Gender equality in the rural sector: The ever-present challenge. (2012, March 2). Retrieved from
  11. ^ a b Little, J. (2002). Rural geography: rural gender identity and the performance of masculinity and femininity in the countryside. Progress in Human Geography, 26(5), doi: 10.1191/0309132502ph394pr
  12. ^ Elder, G., & Conger, R. (1994). Families in troubled times: Adapting to change in rural america. Transaction Publishers.
  13. ^ Eldridge, V., Mack, L., & Swank, E. (2006). Explaining Comfort with Homosexuality in Rural America. Journal Of Homosexuality, 51(2), 39-56.
  14. ^ Chigbu, Uchendu Eugene (2012). "Village renewal as an instrument of rural development: evidence from Weyarn, Germany". Community Development 43 (2): 209–224. 
  15. ^ Defra, UK
  16. ^ a b c,%25202010.pdf+rural+area+definition+in+india&hl=en&gl=in&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiaty6WwlUCeDbQbJZthj0TH5QNA5wGD8ecJDQZ4LeSnkVk248FwwJRgILBfE1IpQgEITgPZdh_enQ23-jPiK0LPypAxLMxdkUpVnEhYA1JPLJ1Hmoq3Psx_xA1bLtWSB-JGwlN&sig=AHIEtbTxGCOJkDkNWcOLHd48toXjJiJt5w

Further reading[edit]

  1. Definitions of Rural: A Handbook for Health Policy Makers and Researchers. PDF (6.12 MB) Thomas C. Ricketts, Karen D. Johnson-Webb, Patricia Taylor. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina, 1998. 13 p.

External links[edit]