Definitions of Rural

Rural: Where Is It Anyway?

There are almost as many definitions of "rural" as there are persons who use the definition. Most often, rural is identified by default when defining that which is urban. Although these vaguely defined definitions of rural are adequate to serve the needs of the lay person, they are not specific enough to be used in the administration of public programs or in conducting research.

To help clarify the most commonly used definitions of “rural” and “urban,” the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health has compiled Rural Pennsylvania: Where Is It Anyway?, a compendium of the definitions of rural and urban for Pennsylvania. This resource uses the definitions from the agencies that are the authorities on the definitions of rural and urban: the U.S. Census Bureau, the Office of Management and Budget, the WWAMI Rural Health Research Center, and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.