Rural area

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The Barossa Valley in South Australia is an area noted for vineyards. Barossa Valley South Australia.jpg
The Barossa Valley in South Australia is an area noted for vineyards.
Rice terraces in Kami, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. uheShan noPeng Tian Rice Terraces of Ueyama in Ojiro, Kami Town in May.jpg
Rice terraces in Kami, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan.
A rural landscape in Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finland. 15 July 2000. Rural landscape in Finland.jpg
A rural landscape in Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finland. 15 July 2000.

In general, a rural area or a countryside is a geographic area that is located outside towns and cities. [1] The Health Resources and Services Administration of the United States 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 area commonly comes under rural, as are other types of area such as forest. Different countries have varying definitions of rural for statistical and administrative purposes.

North America


In Canada, the Organization 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 people per square kilometer. 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 Philip Ehrensaft and Jennifer Beeman (1992). Rural metro-adjacent regions are predominantly rural census divisions which are adjacent to metropolitan centers while rural non-metro-adjacent regions are those predominantly rural census divisions which are not adjacent to metropolitan centers. 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 54th; 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 fewer 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 kilometer (Statistics Canada, 2007).

United States

A rural landscape near Mount Shasta in California Mount Shasta (1).jpg
A rural landscape near Mount Shasta in California

84% of the United States' inhabitants live in suburban and urban areas, [3] but cities occupy only 10 percent of the country. Rural areas (villages) occupy the remaining 90 percent. 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 Census Bureau-defined urbanized areas and urban clusters.



Under the Core Based Statistical Areas used by the OMB (commonly referred to as 'CBSA Codes'), [5]

In 2014, the USDA updated their rural / non-rural area definitions based on the 2010 Census counts. [5]

Rural schools

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

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."

Health care delivery in rural areas of the United States can be challenging. From 2005 to 2011, the rate of potentially preventable hospitalizations for acute conditions was highest in rural areas (as compared to large metropolitan, small metropolitan, or micropolitan areas). [7]

South America


In Brazil, there are different notions of "rural area" and "countryside". Rural areas are any place outside a municipality's urban development (buildings, streets) and it is carried by informal usage. Otherwise, countryside (interior in Portuguese) are officially defined as all municipalities outside the state/territory capital's metropolitan region. Some states as Mato Grosso do Sul do not have any metropolitan regions, thus all of the state, except its capital is officially countryside. Rio de Janeiro is singular in Brazil and it is de facto a metropolitan state, as circa 70% of its population are located in Greater Rio. In the Federal District it is not applicable and there is no countryside as all of it is treated as the federal capital. Brasília is nominally the capital, but the capitality is shared through all Federal District, because Brazil de facto defines its capital as a municipality, and in municipal matters, the Federal District is treated and governs as a single municipality, city-state-like (Brasília, DF).



15% of French population live in rural areas, spread over 90% of the country. President Emmanuel Macron government launched an action plan in 2019 in favour for rural areas named "Agenda Rural". [8] Among many initiatives recommended to redynamize rural areas, energy transition is one of them. Research is being carried out to assess the impact of new projects in rural areas. [9]


Germany is divided into 402 administrative districts, 295 rural districts and 107 urban districts. As one of the largest agricultural producers in the European Union, more than half of Germany's territory which is almost 19 million hectares, [10] is used for farming, and located in the rural areas. Almost 10% of people in Germany have jobs related to the agricultural, forest and fisheries sectors; approximately a fifth of them are employed in the primary production. Since there is a policy of equal living conditions, people see rural areas as equivalent as urban areas. Village renewal is an approach to develop countryside and supports the challenges faced in the process of it. [11]

United Kingdom

A typical countryside scene in rural Yorkshire Dales, England. Malham countryside.jpg
A typical countryside scene in rural Yorkshire Dales, England.

In Britain, "rural" is defined [12] 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 more than 26% of its population living in a rural settlement or market town ("market town" being defined as any settlement which has permission to hold a street market). A number of measures are in place to protect the British countryside, including green belts.

Rural health

In England an NHS patient is defined as rural if they live more than 1 mile (1.6 km) from either a doctor or a dispensing chemist. In Scotland a different definition of rural is used. This is important for defining whether the patient is expected to collect their own medicines. While doctors' surgeries in towns will not have a medicines dispensary instead expecting patients to use a high-street chemist to purchase their prescription medicines (in Scotland collection not purchase, as prescriptions are paid by the state), in rural village surgeries, [13] an NHS medicines dispensary will be built into the same building.



A rural village in Rajasthan, India A view of Villages and farms in south Rajasthan India.jpg
A rural village in Rajasthan, India

Rural areas are also known as the 'countryside' or a 'village' in India. It has a very low population density. In rural areas, agriculture is the chief source of livelihood along with fishing, [14] 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 makes all the decisions. There are five people in the panchayat. The National Sample Survey Organization (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). [15]

It is generally said that the rural areas house up to 70% of India's population. Rural India contributes a large 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. [15]


In Japan, rural areas are referred to as "Inaka" which translates literally to "the countryside" or "one's native village". [16] [17]


Amra Kalan village in Kharian, Pakistan Amra Kalan Village.JPG
Amra Kalan village in Kharian, Pakistan

According to the 2017 census about 64% of Pakistanis live in rural areas. Most rural areas in Pakistan tend to be near cities, and are peri-urban areas. This is due to the definition of a rural area in Pakistan being an area that does not come within an urban boundary. [18] The remote rural villagers of Pakistan commonly live in houses made of bricks, clay or mud. Socioeconomic status among rural Pakistani villagers is often based upon the ownership of agricultural land, which also may provide social prestige in village cultures. The majority of rural Pakistani inhabitants livelihoods is based upon the rearing of livestock, which also comprises a significant part of Pakistan's gross domestic product. Some livestock raised by rural Pakistanis include cattle and goats. However rural areas in Pakistan that are near cities are considered suburban areas or suburbs.


New Zealand

In New Zealand census areas are classified based on their degree of rurality. However, traffic law has a different interpretation and defines a Rural area as "... a road or a geographical area that is not an urban traffic area, to which the rural speed limit generally applies." [19]

Human fertility

Rural residence is a fertility factor, with total fertility rates and pregnancy being higher among women in rural areas than among women in urban areas and the rural population is much younger than urban areas. [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

Village Small clustered human settlement smaller than a town

A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population typically ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. Though villages are often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighborhoods. Villages are normally permanent, with fixed dwellings; however, transient villages can occur. Further, the dwellings of a village are fairly close to one another, not scattered broadly over the landscape, as a dispersed settlement.

Urbanization Process of population movement to cities

Urbanization refers to the population shift from rural to urban areas, the corresponding decrease in the proportion of people living in rural areas, and the ways in which societies adapt to this change. It is predominantly the process by which towns and cities are formed and become larger as more people begin living and working in central areas.

Metropolitan area Region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated but economically-linked surroundings

A metropolitan area or metro is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories under the same administrative jurisdiction, sharing industries, commercial areas, transport network, infrastructures and housing. A metro area usually comprises multiple jurisdictions and municipalities: neighborhoods, townships, boroughs, cities, towns, exurbs, suburbs, counties, districts, and even states and nations like the eurodistricts. As social, economic and political institutions have changed, metropolitan areas have become key economic and political regions.

In the United States, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is a geographical region with a relatively high population density at its core and close economic ties throughout the area. Such regions are neither legally incorporated as a city or town would be, nor are they legal administrative divisions like counties or separate entities such as states; because of this, the precise definition of any given metropolitan area can vary with the source. The statistical criteria for a standard metropolitan area were defined in 1949 and redefined as metropolitan statistical area in 1983. A typical metropolitan area is centered on a single large city that wields substantial influence over the region. However, some metropolitan areas contain more than one large city with no single municipality holding a substantially dominant position. MSAs are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and used by the Census Bureau and other federal government agencies for statistical purposes.

Population density Measurement of population per unit area or unit volume

Population density is a measurement of population per unit area, or exceptionally unit volume; it is a quantity of type number density. It is frequently applied to living organisms, most of the time to humans. It is a key geographical term. In simple terms, population density refers to the number of people living in an area per square kilometre.

Exurb Area of less density than suburbs

An exurb is an area outside the typically denser inner suburban area of a metropolitan area, which has an economic and commuting connection to the metro area, low housing density, and growth. It shapes an interface between urban and rural landscapes holding an urban nature for its functional, economic, and social interaction with the urban center, due to its dominant residential character. They consist of "agglomerations of housing and jobs outside the municipal boundaries of a primary city" and beyond its suburbs.

Urban sprawl Expansion of auto-oriented, low-density development in suburbs

Urban sprawl is the unrestricted growth in many urban areas of housing, commercial development, and roads over large expanses of land, with little concern for urban planning. In addition to describing a particular form of urbanization, the term also relates to the social and environmental consequences associated with this development. Since the advent of the industrial era, sprawl has entailed no direct disadvantages, such as the loss of protection from medieval city walls. However, its disadvantages and costs include increased travel time, transport costs, pollution, and destruction of countryside. The cost of building the infrastructure needed for new developments is hardly ever recouped through property taxes, amounting to a huge subsidy for the developers and new residents at the expense of existing property taxpayers. In Continental Europe, the term peri-urbanisation is often used to denote similar dynamics and phenomena, but the term urban sprawl is currently being used by the European Environment Agency. There is widespread disagreement about what constitutes sprawl and how to quantify it. For example, some commentators measure sprawl only with the average number of residential units per acre in a given area, but others associate it with decentralization, discontinuity, segregation of uses, and so forth.

Urban area Human settlement with high population density and infrastructure of built environment

An urban area, or built-up area, is a human settlement with a high population density and infrastructure of built environment. Urban areas are created through urbanization and are categorized by urban morphology as cities, towns, conurbations or suburbs. In urbanism, the term contrasts to rural areas such as villages and hamlets; in urban sociology or urban anthropology it contrasts with natural environment. The creation of early predecessors of urban areas during the urban revolution led to the creation of human civilization with modern urban planning, which along with other human activities such as exploitation of natural resources led to a human impact on the environment. "Agglomeration effects" are in the list of the main consequences of increased rates of firm creation since. This is due to conditions created by a greater level of industrial activity in a given region. However, a favorable environment for human capital development would also be generated simultaneously.

An urban area or tätort in Sweden has a minimum of 200 inhabitants and may be a city, town or larger village. It is a purely statistical concept, not defined by any municipal or county boundaries. Larger urban areas synonymous with cities or towns for statistical purposes have a minimum of 10,000 inhabitants. The same statistical definition is also used for urban areas in the other Nordic countries.

City proper The geographical area contained within the defined boundary of a city

A city proper is the geographical area contained within city limits. The term, proper, is not exclusive to cities; it can describe the geographical area within the boundaries of any given locality. The United Nations defines the term as "the single political jurisdiction which contains the historical city centre."

Rural–urban fringe

The rural–urban fringe, also known as the outskirts, rurban, peri-urban or the urban hinterland, can be described as the "landscape interface between town and country", or also as the transition zone where urban and rural uses mix and often clash. Alternatively, it can be viewed as a landscape type in its own right, one forged from an interaction of urban and rural land uses.

Mega Manila

Mega Manila is the megalopolis in the Philippine regions of Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Metro Manila. It is frequently used in the press, advertising, television, and radio to refer to provinces bound to Manila, in contrast to the term Greater Manila Area, which is academically used to describe the urbanization process that has long spilled out of Metro Manila's borders, also known as the built-up area. Mapping out the built-up area around Manila requires finer granularity than the more generic term Mega Manila.

Rural areas in the United States Rural areas in the United States

Approximately 97% of United States' land area is within rural counties, and 60 million people reside in these areas.

Metropolis A large and significant city or urban area usually with millions of inhabitants

A metropolis is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. The term is Ancient Greek (μητρόπολις) and means the "mother city" of a colony, that is, the city which sent out settlers. This was later generalized to a city regarded as a center of a specified activity, or any large, important city in a nation.

Urbanization in India began to accelerate after independence, due to the country's adoption of a mixed economy, which gave rise to the development of the private sector. The population residing in urban areas in India, according to the 1901 census, was 11.4%, increasing to 28.53% by the 2001 census, and is now currently 34% in 2017 according to The World Bank. According to a survey by UN, in 2030 40.76% of country's population is expected to reside in urban areas. As per World Bank, India, along with China, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the United States, will lead the world's urban population surge by 2050.


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Further reading