The U.S. Census Bureau classifies as urban all territory, population, and housing units located within urbanized areas (UAs) and urban clusters (UCs). It delineates UA and UC boundaries to encompass densely settled territory, which generally consists of:
- A cluster of one or more block groups or census blocks each of which has a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile at the time, and
- Surrounding block groups and census blocks each of which has a population density of at least 500 people per square mile at the time, and
- Less densely settled blocks that form enclaves or indentations, or are used to connect discontiguous areas with qualifying densities.
Rural consists of all territory, population, and housing units located outside of UAs and UCs.
Geographic entities, such as metropolitan areas, counties, minor civil divisions (MCDs), and places, often contain both urban and rural territory, population, and housing units.
This urban and rural classification applies to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands of the United States.
An urbanized area (UA) consists of densely settled territory that contains 50,000 or more people. The U.S. Census Bureau delineates UAs to provide a better separation of urban and rural territory, population, and housing in the vicinity of large places.
For Census 2000, the UA criteria were extensively revised and the delineations were performed using a zero-based approach. Because of more stringent density requirements, some territory that was classified as urbanized for the 1990 census has been reclassified as rural. (Area that was part of a 1990 UA has not been automatically grandfathered into the 2000 UA.) In addition, some areas that were identified as UAs for the 1990 census have been reclassified as urban clusters.
An urban cluster (UC) consists of densely settled territory that has at least 2,500 people but fewer than 50,000 people.
The U.S. Census Bureau introduced the UC for Census 2000 to provide a more consistent and accurate measure of the population concentration in and around places. UCs replace the provision in the 1990 and previous censuses that defined as urban only those places with 2,500 or more people located outside of urbanized areas.
Urbanized Area Title and Code
The title of a UA may contain up to three incorporated place names, and will include the two-letter U.S. Postal Service abbreviation for each state into which the UA extends. However, if the UA does not contain an incorporated place, the UA title will include the single name of the geographic entity that occurs first from the following list: census designated place (CDP), minor civil division (MCD), or populated place recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Each UA is assigned a five-digit census code in alphabetical sequence on a nationwide basis, interspersed with the codes for urban clusters (UCs), also in alphabetical sequence. For the 1990 census, the U.S. Census Bureau assigned a four-digit UA code based on the metropolitan area codes. For Census 2000, a separate flag is included in data tabulation files to differentiate between UAs and UCs. In printed reports, this differentiation is included in the name.
Urbanized Area Central Place
A central place functions as the dominant center of an urban area. The U.S. Census Bureau identifies one or more central places for each urbanized area (UA) or urban cluster (UC) that contains a place. Any incorporated place or census designated place (CDP) that is in the title of the urban area is a central place of that UA or UC. In addition, any other incorporated place or CDP that has an urban population of 50,000 or an urban population of at least 2,500 people and is at least 2/3 the size of the largest place within the urban area also is a central place.
As a result of the urbanized area (UA) and urban cluster (UC) delineations, an incorporated place or census designated place may be partially within and partially outside of a UA or UC. Any place that is split by a UA or UC is referred to as an extended place.
Documentation of the UA, UC, and extended place criteria is available from the Geographic Areas Branch, Geography Division, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC 20233-7400; telephone 301-457-1099.