Village (United States)

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A Shaker village's main street in Massachusetts. Shaker Village, Main Street, Pittsfield, Mass (NYPL b12647398-68623).tiff
A Shaker village's main street in Massachusetts.

In the United States, the meaning of "village" varies by geographic area and legal jurisdiction. In many areas, "village" is a term, sometimes informal, for a type of administrative division at the local government level. Since the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from legislating on local government, the states are free to have political subdivisions called "villages" or not to and to define the word in many ways. Typically, a village is a type of municipality, although it can also be a special district or an unincorporated area. It may or may not be recognized for governmental purposes.


In informal usage, a U.S. village may be simply a relatively small clustered human settlement without formal legal existence. In colonial New England, a village typically formed around the meetinghouses that were located in the center of each town. [1] Many of these colonial settlements still exist as town centers. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, industrial villages also sprang up around water-powered mills, mines, and factories. [1] Because most New England villages were contained within the boundaries of legally established towns, many such villages were never separately incorporated as municipalities.

A relatively small unincorporated community, similar to a hamlet in New York state, or even a relatively small community within an incorporated city or town, may be termed a village. This informal usage may be found even in states that have villages as an incorporated municipality and is similar to the usage of the term "unincorporated town" in states having town governments.

States that formally recognize villages vary widely in the definition of the term. [2] Most commonly, a village is either a special district or a municipality. As a municipality, a village may

  1. differ from a city or town in terms of population;
  2. differ from a city in terms of dependence on a township; or
  3. be virtually equivalent to a city or town.

By state


Under Article 10, Section 2 of the Alaska Constitution, as well as law enacted pursuant to the constitution, Alaska legally recognizes only cities and boroughs as municipal entities in Alaska. [3] In Alaska, "village" is a colloquial term used to refer to small communities, which are mostly located in the rural areas of the state, often unconnected to the contiguous North American road system. Many of these communities are populated predominately by Alaska Natives and are federally recognized as villages under the Indian Reorganization Act and/or the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. As voting membership in the Alaska Municipal League is on an equal footing, regardless of population, most villages are incorporated as second-class cities. In common usage, however, these communities are thought of more often as villages than as cities.


Village districts are subordinate agencies of municipal governments rather than municipalities in their own right. [2]


Municipalities in Delaware are called cities, towns, or villages. There are no differences among them that would affect their classification for census purposes. [2]


Municipalities in Florida are called cities, towns, or villages. [2] They are not differentiated for census purposes.


All municipalities in Idaho are called cities, although the terms "town" and "village" are sometimes used in statutes. [2]


A village is a type of incorporated municipality in Illinois; the other two types are the city and the incorporated town. [2] All incorporated municipalities, regardless of type, are independent of each other, and cannot overlap. Villages can be created by referendum under the general state law or by special state charter. The governing body is a board of six elected trustees and an elected village president, all of whom are usually elected at-large.


A village in Louisiana is a municipality having a population of 1,000 or fewer. [2]


In Maine, village corporations or village improvement corporations are special districts established in towns for limited purposes. [2]


In Maryland, a locality designated "Village of ..." may be either an incorporated town or a special tax district. An example of the latter is the Village of Friendship Heights. [2] The distinction is legally relevant to the level of police power that a village may exercise. [4]


In Michigan, villages differ from cities in that, whereas villages remain part of the townships in which they are formed, thereby reducing their home-rule powers, cities are not part of townships. Because of this, village governments are required to share some of the responsibilities to their residents with the township. [2]


Villages that existed in Minnesota as of January 1, 1974, became statutory cities, as opposed to charter cities. Cities may or may not exist within township areas. [2] [5]


A village in Mississippi is a municipality of 100 to 299 inhabitants. They may no longer be created. [2]


The municipalities of Missouri are cities, towns, and villages. Unlike cities, villages have no minimum population requirement. [2]


In Nebraska, a village is a municipality of 100 through 800 inhabitants, whereas a city must have at least 800 inhabitants. In counties having townships, all villages, but only some cities, are within township areas. A city of the second class (800-5,000 inhabitants) may elect to revert to village status. [2]

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, a village district or precinct may be organized within a town. Such a village district or precinct is a special district with limited powers. [2]

New Jersey

A village in the context of New Jersey local government, refers to one of five types and one of eleven forms of municipal government. Villages in New Jersey are of equal standing to other municipalities, such as cities, towns, boroughs, and townships

New Mexico

The municipalities in New Mexico are cities, towns, and villages. There are no differences among them that would affect their classification for census purposes. [2]

New York

In New York State, a village is an incorporated area that differs from a city in that a village is within the jurisdiction of one or more towns, whereas a city is independent of a town. Villages thus have less autonomy than cities. [2]

A village is usually, but not always, within a single town. A village may be coterminous with, and have a consolidated government with, a town. A village is a clearly defined municipality that provides the services closest to the residents, such as garbage collection, street and highway maintenance, street lighting and building codes. Some villages provide their own police and other optional services. Those municipal services not provided by the village are provided by the town or towns containing the village. As of the 2000 census, there are 553 villages in New York.

There is no limit to the population of a village in New York; Hempstead, the largest village in the state, has 55,000 residents, making it more populous than some of the state's cities. However, villages in the state may not exceed five square miles (13 km²) in area. Present law requires a minimum of 500 residents to incorporate as a village.

North Carolina

The municipalities in North Carolina are cities, towns, and villages. There are no significant differences in legal power or status. [2]


In Ohio, a village is an incorporated municipality with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, excluding residents of educational or correctional facilities. [2] [6] The minimum population for incorporation as a village is 1,600 inhabitants, but this was not always the case, resulting in many very small villages. [7] If an existing village's population surpasses 5,000 at a federal census, or if a village comes to have more than 5,000 resident registered voters, it is automatically designated as a city. [6] Cities or villages may be within township areas; however, if a city or village becomes coterminous with a township, the township ceases to exist as a separate government (see Paper township). [8]


In Oklahoma, unincorporated communities are called villages and are not counted as governments.


In Oregon, the municipal governments are cities, towns, and villages, although there is no significance in their legal powers or status. [2] Also, one county Clackamas County permits the organization of unincorporated areas into villages and hamlets. The boards of such entities are advisory to the county. [9]


In Texas, villages may be Type B or Type C municipalities, but not Type A municipalities. The types differ in terms of population and in terms of the forms of government that they may adopt. [2]


In Vermont, villages are named communities located within the boundaries of a legally established town, unlike cities, which are outside of any town area. [2] Villages may be incorporated or unincorporated.


In Wisconsin, cities and villages are both outside the area of any town. Cities and villages differ in terms of the population and population density required for incorporation. [2]

West Virginia

In West Virginia, towns and villages are Class IV municipalities, i.e., having 2,000 or fewer inhabitants. [2]

Related Research Articles

Municipality Administrative division having corporate status and usually some powers of self-government or jurisdiction

A municipality is usually a single administrative division having corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by national and regional laws to which it is subordinate. It is to be distinguished (usually) from the county, which may encompass rural territory or numerous small communities such as towns, villages and hamlets.

Town Settlement that is bigger than a village but smaller than a city

A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages but smaller than cities, though the criteria to distinguish them vary considerably between different parts of the world.

Township Designation for types of settlement as administrative territorial entities

Township refers to various kinds of settlements or administrative subdivisions in different countries.

County (United States) Subdivision used by most states in the United States of America

In the United States, a county is an administrative or political subdivision of a state that consists of a geographic region with specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority. The term "county" is used in 48 U.S. states, while Louisiana and Alaska have functionally equivalent subdivisions called parishes and boroughs, respectively.

Unincorporated area Region of land not governed by own local government

In law, an unincorporated area is a region of land that is not governed by a local municipal corporation; similarly an unincorporated community is a settlement that is not governed by its own local municipal corporation, but rather is administered as part of larger administrative divisions, such as a township, parish, borough, county, city, canton, state, province or country. Occasionally, municipalities dissolve or disincorporate, which may happen if they become fiscally insolvent, and services become the responsibility of a higher administration. Widespread unincorporated communities and areas are a distinguishing feature of the United States and Canada. In most other countries of the world, there are either no unincorporated areas at all, or these are very rare; typically remote, outlying, sparsely populated or uninhabited areas.

A census-designated place (CDP) is a concentration of population defined by the United States Census Bureau for statistical purposes only. CDPs have been used in each decennial census since 1980 as the counterparts of incorporated places, such as self-governing cities, towns, and villages, for the purposes of gathering and correlating statistical data. CDPs are populated areas that generally include one officially designated but currently unincorporated community, for which the CDP is named, plus surrounding inhabited countryside of varying dimensions and, occasionally, other, smaller unincorporated communities as well. CDPs include small rural communities, colonias located along the Mexico–United States border, and unincorporated resort and retirement communities and their environs.

Hamlet (place) Small human settlement in a rural area

A hamlet is a small human settlement. In different jurisdictions and geographies, a hamlet may be the size of a town, village or parish, or may be considered to be a smaller settlement or subdivision or satellite entity to a larger settlement. The word and concept of a hamlet have roots in the Anglo-Norman settlement of England, where the old French hamlet came to apply to small human settlements. In British geography, a hamlet is considered smaller than a village and distinctly without a church or other place of worship.

A township in some states of the United States is a small geographic area.

An incorporated town is a town that is a municipal corporation.

Local government in the United States refers to governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state. Most states and territories have at least two tiers of local government: counties and municipalities. In some states, counties are divided into townships. There are several different types of jurisdictions at the municipal level, including the city, town, borough, and village. The types and nature of these municipal entities vary from state to state.

Borough (United States) administrative division at the local government level in the United States

A borough in some U.S. states is a unit of local government or other administrative division below the level of the state. The term is currently used in six states:

New England town Basic unit of local government in the six New England states of the United States

The New England town, generally referred to in New England simply as a town, is the basic unit of local government and local division of state authority in each of the six New England states and without a direct counterpart in most other U.S. states. New England towns overlay the entire area of a state, similar to civil townships in other states where they exist, but they are fully functioning municipal corporations, possessing powers similar to cities in other states. New Jersey's system of equally powerful townships, boroughs, towns, and cities is the system which is most similar to that of New England. New England towns are often governed by a town meeting legislative body. The great majority of municipal corporations in New England are based on the town model; statutory forms based on the concept of a compact populated place are uncommon, though they are prevalent elsewhere in the U.S. County government in New England states is typically weak at best, and in some states nonexistent. Connecticut, for example, has no county governments, nor does Rhode Island. Both of those states retain counties only as geographic subdivisions with no governmental authority, while Massachusetts has abolished eight of fourteen county governments so far. With few exceptions, counties serve mostly as dividing lines for the states' judicial systems.

The administrative divisions of Wisconsin include counties, cities, villages and towns. In Wisconsin, all of these are units of general-purpose local government. There are also a number of special-purpose districts formed to handle regional concerns, such as school districts.

The United States Census Bureau defines a place as a concentration of population which has a name, is locally recognized, and is not part of any other place. A place typically has a residential nucleus and a closely spaced street pattern, and it frequently includes commercial property and other urban land uses. A place may be an incorporated place or it may be a census-designated place (CDP). Incorporated places are defined by the laws of the states in which they are contained. The Census Bureau delineates CDPs. A small settlement in the open countryside or the densely settled fringe of a large city may not be a place as defined by the Census Bureau. As of the 1990 Census, only 26% of the people in the United States lived outside of places.

Local government in New Jersey is composed of counties and municipalities. Local jurisdictions in New Jersey differ from those in some other states because every square foot of the state is part of exactly one municipality; each of the 565 municipalities is in exactly one county; and each of the 21 counties has more than one municipality. New Jersey has no unincorporated areas, independent cities, or consolidated city-counties.

A Vermont municipality is a particular type of New England municipality. It is the basic unit of local government.

Local government in Pennsylvania is government below the state level in Pennsylvania. There are six types of local governments listed in the Pennsylvania Constitution: county, township, borough, town, city, and school district. All of Pennsylvania is included in one of the state's 67 counties, which are in total subdivided into 2,561 municipalities. There are currently no independent cities or unincorporated territories within Pennsylvania.


  1. 1 2 Joseph S. Wood (2002), The New England Village , Johns Hopkins University Press
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 2012 Census of Governments, Individual State Descriptions (PDF)
  3. "Article 10 - Local Government". Alaska Constitution. Juneau: Office of the Alaska Lieutenant Governor. 1956. Archived from the original on August 17, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  4. Maryland Town Snuffs Out Its Beleaguered Open-Air Smoking Ban, Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2001
  5. Minnesota Statutes § 412.016
  6. 1 2 "Ohio Revised Code Section 703.01(A)" . Retrieved 2007-09-12.
  7. "Ohio Revised Code Section 707.02(C)" . Retrieved 2007-09-12.
  8. "Ohio Revised Code Section 703.22" . Retrieved 2007-09-12.
  9. Quick Facts About Hamlets & Villages Archived February 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine (from the Web site of Clackamas County, Oregon)