Urban, Suburban, or Rural?

The Pew Research Center digs into a question of definitions, fraught with exceptions and subjectivity.

2 minute read

November 25, 2019, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Model Neighborhood

J Aaron Farr / Flickr

Ruth Igielnik Wieder shares the results of a survey and analysis intended to determine more about the defining characteristics of urban, suburban, and rural communities in the United States.

As a new approach to the question of how to tell these types of communities apart, the team at the Pew Research Center took the additional step of surveying residents to compare public perception to outside sources of classification, two from the government and one based on ZIP codes. The government sources included 1) the National Center for Health Studies Urban-Rural Classification Scheme and 2) the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s Rural-Urban Continuum County Classification. The ZIP Code measure included two factors: "the distance from the ZIP code to the center of the largest principal city in the nearest metro area (as measured by distance to the city hall) and the household density in the ZIP code."

According to Wilder, the comparisons between those three measures and the findings of the survey reveal a few patterns: "All three methods most accurately classified rural Americans and did less well with Americans in urban and suburban areas. And while all the measures performed relatively well overall, the decision tree most closely matched self-reports across all three community types."

As for which metric turned out to be the most useful, in the opinion of researchers: the self-reported assessment.

Friday, November 22, 2019 in Decoded - Pew Research Center

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