Hundreds of urban areas in America are becoming rural, but that’s not because people are leaving.
It’s just that the US Census Bureau is changing the definition of an urban area. Under the new criteria, more than 1,300 small towns, towns and villages that were designated urban a decade ago will be considered rural.
This matters because urban and rural areas qualify for different types of federal funding. Some communities worry that the change could affect health clinics in rural areas. As well as transportation and education funding from federal programs. But leaders of other communities have designated to lose their urban status that it will not matter.
“We are rural and we feel rural, and that’s how we already are,” said city administrator Randy Rigg of Mouston, Wisconsin, a town of 4,347 residents about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Madison. He only identifies.”
Groups such as the American Hospital Association say the changes, which are the biggest changes to definitions being made in decades, could pose problems for people who need medical care in rural areas.
“Moving forward with the new definition could limit the number of rural health clinics and negatively impact rural access to care,” said Shannon Wu, senior associate director of policy at the Hospital Association.
For starters, the Census Bureau is switching to housing units, rather than people, as a basis for calculating what an urban area should be. Bureau officials say the change will make it easier to update among US once-in-a-decade chiefs, they also argue is needed because a new privacy methodology is needed. The 2020 census introduces errors in population numbers in small geographic areas to protect people’s identities. Stay accurate under the housing count method.
The old norms, which have been in place for more than a century, required a place to have at least 2,500 people to be urban. Now, it would require at least 2,000 housing units, roughly equivalent to 5,000 people. A revised list of urban areas will not be released until the end of this year, but a third of the areas considered urban a decade ago will be placed in the rural category under the new norms.
Places with 50,000 or more residents were considered “urbanized areas”, compared to “urban clusters” of between 2,500 and 49,999 inhabitants in the past. But those distinctions will be done away with and all will be called urban areas under the new definition.
Some communities worry that switching to housing units will undermine some areas if the Census Bureau uses the US average of 2.6 people per household for its calculations. For example, Madera County, Calif., has 3.3 people per household, and the change “won’t represent the community as a whole,” Patricia Taylor, executive director of the Madera County Transportation Commission, said in a letter to the bureau last year.
The Census Bureau says the new definition should only be used for statistical purposes. But the bureau’s urban areas make up the hub of metro and micro areas, and its definitions provide the basis for how other agencies classify urban and rural areas in determining eligibility for federal funding. The bureau reviews the definitions every 10 years after the census.and the urban population has grown From about 45% of the total US population in 1910 to more than 80% a decade earlier.
“We hear people say 2,500 was too low. That was the impetus for the increase,” said Michael Ratcliffe, a senior geographer at the Census Bureau.
Different federal programs use different definitions of urban and rural, and some communities qualify for rural funding for some programs and not others. But any change “will have significant implications for many groups and communities,” said Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire who studies rural issues.
“Another potential concern for many rural communities is that if many existing urban areas are redefined as rural, competition for limited rural funds will increase,” Johnson said.
A coalition of unions representing cities, counties, planners and transportation groups objected to a number of proposed changes last year, saying the switch from people to housing units would not change development and land use patterns.
The Census Bureau attempted to address those concerns by creating three levels of urban area definitions for census blocks, which are the smallest geographical units in the country. Census blocks would be urban if they had 425 housing units per square mile, which equates to 1,105 people. Before the change, census blocks with at least 500 people per square mile were considered urban.
The redesign gives the Bureau a way to distinguish between “urban nuclei” and less densely populated areas, usually at the edge of urban areas.
Bill Keiruz, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, said the Census Bureau’s amendment, adding different levels of urban areas based on density, “was a substantial compromise.”
Town manager Michael Cain said that for the town of Demotte, Indiana, 85 miles (135 kilometers) southwest of South Bend, which would no longer qualify as an urban area, it really mattered from a “status” standpoint. does not keep.
“You are who you are. The number of people doesn’t matter. It’s the sense of community that matters, whether your city is a group of people who care about each other,” Cain said.
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