Rural Data Sources

There is a wide range of data sources from Federal agencies that can be used to examine various aspects of rural America. This listing provides a summary of the major Federal sources of statistical data used to analyze rural areas. The data sources are categorized by their content, time period, as well as their geographic coverage.

Primary data sources
Source Agency link Description Geographic coverage Geographic reporting units Rural classifications Time period
U.S. Decennial Census U.S. Census Bureau Complete count of U.S. housing units and group quarters, with data collected on age, sex, and race-ethnicity of all household members All U.S. States, Puerto Rico and Island Areas Multiple small-area reporting units, including counties, places, census tracts, and congressional districts Summary statistics provided for Census-defined rural areas and OMB-defined nonmetro areas Every 10 years on the first April 1 of every decade
Population Estimates U.S. Census Bureau Population size by age, race-ethnicity, and sex, and components of population change since the most recent decennial census; based on births, deaths, and migration data All U.S. States and Puerto Rico Nation, States, counties; total resident population only for places, and sub-county units County-level data may be used to generate statistics for OMB-defined nonmetro areas Annual data, 1970-present
American Community Survey U.S. Census Bureau Survey of housing units and group quarters; primary U.S. source for small-area socioeconomic statistics All U.S. States and Puerto Rico Small-area reporting units, including counties, places, census tracts, and congressional districts Summary statistics provided for Census-defined rural areas and OMB-defined nonmetro areas 1-, 3-, and 5-year data products since 2006
Current Population Survey BLS/U.S Census Bureau Longitudinal survey of housing units; summary tables and microdata about housing units and occupants All U.S. States and Puerto Rico Census regions, Census divisions, some Metro Areas Primarily uses OMB's nonmetro areas Monthly surveys since the 1960's
American Housing Survey HUD/U.S. Census Bureau Longitudinal survey of housing units; summary tables and microdata about housing units and occupants All U.S. States and Puerto Rico Census regions, Census divisions, some Metro Areas Primarily uses OMB's nonmetro areas Biennial surveys since 1973
Building Permits Survey U.S. Census Bureau Provides data on the number and valuation of new housing units authorized by building permits All U.S. States; excludes Puerto Rico and Island Areas Regions, divisions, states, counties, metropolitan areas, individual jurisdictions County-level data may be used to generate statistics for OMB-defined nonmetro areas Monthly and annually since 1959
Local Area Unemployment Statistics Bureau of Labor Statistics Monthly estimates of total employment and unemployment widely used as key indicators of local economic conditions All U.S. States and Puerto Rico Multiple units, including States, metro and micro areas, and counties County-level data may be used to generate statistics for OMB-defined nonmetro areas Monthly and annual averages since 1976
Covered Employment and Wage Bureau of Labor Statistics Known as QCEW or ES-202; employment and wage data by industry, based on administrative data for unemployment insurance All U.S. States, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Nation, States, counties County-level data may be used to generate statistics for OMB-defined nonmetro areas Annual averages since 1975
Local Area Personal Income and Employment Bureau of Economic Analysis Personal income and employment by industry. Also included are data on employee compensation, transfer receipts, and farm income and expenses. All U.S. States Nation, States, counties, Metro and Nonmetro areas Summary statistics provided for OMB-defined nonmetro areas and BEA defined regions Annual averages since 1969 for most data
Common Core of Data (Education) National Center for Education Statistics Survey of public schools with information on schools and school districts; data on students and staff; and fiscal data 50 states, the District of Columbia,and the outlying areas Schools and school districts NCES urban-centric locale code for school districts; county-level definitions may be applied 1986-87 school year through 2013-14

 

Secondary data collections
Source Agency link Description Geographic coverage Geographic reporting units Rural classi­fications Time period
State Fact Sheets Economic Research Service, USDA Selection of population, income, education, employment, and farm data for all U.S. States All U.S. States and Puerto Rico States Separate statistics for metro­politan and non­metro­politan areas of each State 1980 to present
Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America Economic Research Service, USDA Interactive mapping tool containing many socio-economic indicators used in rural research All U.S. States and Puerto Rico (when data are available) Counties Includes OMB-defined metro-nonmetro indicator, and several other county classi­fications Decennial data, 2000 and 2010; annual data since 2010
County Business Patterns/​ZIP Business Patterns U.S. Census Bureau Economic data by industry, including number of establishments, employment, and payroll U.S. States, Puerto Rico, and Island Areas Counties and ZIP code areas Data may be used to generate statistics for OMB-defined nonmetro areas and ZIP-based RUCA codes Annual data since 1964
Statistics of U.S. Businesses U.S. Census Bureau Provides national and subnational data on the distribution of economic data by enterprise size and industry All U.S. States; excludes Puerto Rico and Island Areas Nation, States, metro­politan areas, counties County classi­fications, including metro-nonmetro areas and ERS urban​-rural continuum Annually since 1989
Area Health Resources Files Health Resources and Services Administration Socio­economic and related data about the nations health care delivery system United States, including Puerto Rico Nation, States, counties County classi­fications, including metro-nonmetro areas and ERS urban​-rural continuum Covers several decades but time period varies by source

 

Geographic classifications
Source Agency link Description Geographic coverage Geographic reporting units Rural classifications Time period
Census Urban and Rural Areas U.S. Census Bureau Urban areas are densely-settled clusters with at least 2,500 people; defined using census block and block groups All U.S. States and Puerto Rico Multiple units, including counties Official Census definition of urban and rural for statistical reporting purposes. Updated every 10 years since 1900
Metro and Nonmetro Areas Office of Management and Budget Labor-market regions centered around urban areas of 50,000 or more people; remaining counties are nonmetro All U.S. States and Puerto Rico Counties Widely used to distinguish urban and rural territory at the county-level Updated every 10 years since 1950
Rural-Urban Continuum Codes Economic Research Service, USDA Rurality measure based on metro status, urban population, and metro adjacency All U.S. States and Puerto Rico Counties Based on metro-nonmetro classification Updated every 10 years since 1970
Urban Influence Codes Economic Research Service, USDA Rurality measure based on metro-micro status, size of largest place, and metro adjacency All U.S. States and Puerto Rico Counties Based on metro-nonmetro classification Updated every 10 years since 1990
County Typologies Economic Research Service, USDA Six categories of economic dependence and seven categories of policy-relevant themes All U.S. States Counties May be used with county-based classifications, such as metro-nonmetro areas Updated every 10 years since 1990
Natural Amenities Scale Economic Research Service, USDA Composite of six measures of environmental qualities most people prefer U.S. States except Alaska and Hawaii Counties May be used with county-based classifications, such as metro-nonmetro areas Based on data from 1941 to 1993
County-level Oil & Gas Production Economic Research Service, USDA Based on the annual gross withdrawals of crude oil (barrels) and natural gas (cubic feet) from 2000 through 2011 U.S. States except Alaska and Hawaii Counties May be used with county-based classifications, such as metro-nonmetro areas Based on data from 2000 to 2011
Creative Class County Codes Economic Research Service, USDA Based on share of population employed in occupations that require "thinking creatively" All U.S. States; excludes Puerto Rico and Island Areas Counties May be used with county-based classifications, such as metro-nonmetro areas Updated every 10 years since 1990
Rural-Urban Commuting Areas Economic Research Service, USDA 10-level classification based on urban size and commuting flows All U.S. States, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands ZIP code areas and census tracts Used as a urban-rural definition at the sub-county level Updated every 10 years since 1990
Frontier and Remote Area Codes Economic Research Service, USDA Identifies very rural, isolated territory based on urban size and highway travel-time All U.S. States; excludes Puerto Rico and Island Areas ZIP code areas and other reporting units Designed to be used as a remote-rural definition at the sub-county level Updated every 10 years since 2000
Urban-Centric Locale Codes National Center for Education Statistics, DOE 12-level classification of schools and school districts based on proximity to urbanized areas U.S. States, DC, Island Areas Schools and school districts Designed to distinguish schools and school districts by rurality Redesigned in 2006; updated every 10 years

Last updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2019

For more information contact: Timothy Parker