What is Rural? A Pennsylvania Perspective


  • Jonathan Johnson
  • David Martin


rural definition, rural policy, population


One of the biggest challenges in studying rural policy is defining the term “rural.” This article details the history of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s definition of “rural” and “urban,” and how this definition is applied in the context of counties, school districts, and municipalities in Pennsylvania. The county and school district definitions are based on population density. If an area is below the statewide average population density, it is classified as “rural,” otherwise it is classified as “urban.” A municipality is classified as “rural” if its population density is below the statewide average, or if the municipality has fewer than 2,500 residents and is located in a rural county.  All classifications are based on data from the decennial Census.