About the Atlas

Update and Revision History

  • In July 2017, 2016 county population estimates and annual unemployment/employment data were added to the Atlas maps and download files; earlier estimates were revised.
  • In March 2017, maps using data from the American Community Survey were updated to 2011-15 (5-year average county-level data), and poverty and income maps using the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) were updated to 2015.
  • In July 2016, population, employment, and unemployment data were updated with recently released 2015 estimates. Earlier estimates were revised back to 2010.
  • In March 2016, variables based on county-level American Community Survey data were updated to 2010-14 (5-year averages). The 2015 edition of the ERS county typology replaces an earlier version. Median household income and poverty now reflect the 2014 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) data.
  • In September 2015, variables based on county-level American Community Survey data were updated to 2009-13 (5-year averages). Updated persistent poverty and persistent child poverty classifications were added to the Atlas. Population, unemployment, and income data were updated. Population estimate data were updated. Census of Agriculture maps are now available on the National Agricultural Statistics Service website.
  • In April 2014, new and revised population estimates, migration rates, and natural changes rates were added for 2010-13. Oil & Gas counties were updated and corrected, and "high poverty" counties were updated from 2007-11 to 2008-12 with American Community Survey (ACS) data.  
  • In March 2014, all ACS data were update to the latest 5-year average (2008-12).
  • In February 2014, indicators of county-level change in natural gas and onshore oil production, 2000-11, were added to the Atlas. More detailed oil and natural gas production data are available in County-level Oil and Gas Production in the U.S. on the ERS website.
  • In June 2013, population, employment, and unemployment estimates were updated to 2012; net migration and natural change were update to 2000-10. A simplified user interface that reduced the number of classification filters was adopted.
  • In May 2013, the 2013 Rural Urban Continuum Codes and the 2013 Urban Influence Codes were added to the classification section. Persistent Poverty Counties 1980-2011, and High Poverty Counties 2007-11 were also added as classifications.
  • In January 2013, the ACS data were updated from 2006-10 to 2007-11.
  • In May 2012, new data from the 2006-10 ACS on civilian veterans were added to the Atlas.
  • In May 2012, employment and unemployment data were updated to 2011.
  • In April 2012, new data from the 2006-10 ACS were added, including indicators on population, education, income, and other demographic variables.

Objectives of the Atlas

ERS promotes the well-being of rural America through research and analysis to better understand the economic, demographic, environmental, and social forces affecting rural regions and communities. In collaboration with other USDA agencies, ERS research helps provide rural residents and community and business leaders with the knowledge and skills to help their communities thrive in the global economy.
The objectives of the Atlas are:

  • To provide a spatial interpretation of county-level, economic and social conditions along four dimensions: people, jobs, income, and county classifications.
  • To highlight the value of the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey as a new source of county data and to bring together data from several different Federal sources.
  • To allow the use of socioeconomic indicators jointly with ERS county typologies to better understand the diverse opportunities and challenges facing rural regions and communities.    

What information is included in the Atlas?

The Atlas assembles statistics on four broad categories of socioeconomic factors:

  • People—Demographic data from the American Community Survey, including age, race and ethnicity, migration and immigration, education, household size and family composition. Data have been added on veterans, including service period, education, unemployment, income, and demographic characteristics
  • Jobs—Economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources, including information on employment trends, unemployment, industrial composition, and household income
  • Veterans—Indicators from the latest American Community Survey on the social and economic conditions of veterans 
  • County classifications—Rural-urban continuum, economic dependence, persistent poverty, population loss, oil/natural gas counties, and other ERS county codes

Descriptions of these ERS classifications and detailed source information for all the indicators that are available for mapping are provided in the Documentation section of the Atlas.

What can users do with the Atlas?

  • View county-level maps for over 60 socioeconomic indicators
  • View the entire country or zoom into specific regions, States, or county areas
  • View a selected socioeconomic indicator just for counties of a certain type (such as nonmetro, farming-dependent, persistent poverty); counties that fall outside of the selected county type are grayed out
  • For any county, view a pop-up window showing all the indicators for that county
  • Print a version of the map or save the image in a graphics-file format that may be added to documents or presentations
  • Download a spreadsheet containing all the data for a selected county or for all U.S. counties.


On May 31, 2017, the ERS 2015 County Typology Codes (non-overlapping economic types only) were revised for six counties to correct a coding error. The revised classifications are as follows: Pendleton, KY (mining-dependent); Alger, MI (Federal/State government-dependent); Hickory, MO (recreation); Washington, RI (Federal/State government-dependent); Leon, TX (mining-dependent); and Tucker, WV (Federal/State government-dependent).

On April 11, 2014, the 2010 and 2011 oil and gas production for three Pennsylvania counties (Crawford, Erie, and Mercer) were changed to correct a coding error. In addition, 2011 oil/gas production data for Kentucky and Virginia (which had been approximated using 2010 data) are now available.

 See also the Amber Waves data feature on the Atlas (March 2011 issue).