Data for Rural Analysis

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) produces and maintains data used by policymakers and researchers to identify and describe rural and urban areas. Measures of rurality such as the Rural-Urban Continuum Codes and Urban Influence Codes classify counties based on criteria such as population size, adjacency to a metropolitan area, and commuting flows. These codes have been used to determine program eligibility criteria for various Federal programs. Other ERS data products classify counties in both metro and nonmetro areas based on key social and economic characteristics (County Typology Codes) or physical characteristics (Natural Amenities Scale).

ERS has resources to help you:

Tools To Determine Rural Status and Degree of Rurality

Rural-Urban Continuum Codes—The Rural-Urban Continuum Codes classify all U.S. counties by the degree of urbanization and adjacency to a metropolitan area. These codes are used in determining eligibility for several Federal programs, and allow researchers to break county-level data into finer residential groups than the standard dichotomous metro/nonmetro. 

Urban Influence Codes—These codes are similar to the Rural-Urban Continuum Codes. Counties are classified, however, by the population size of the cities within each county, rather than the degree of urbanization, and adjacency to a metropolitan or micropolitan area.

Rural-Urban Commuting Area Codes (RUCA)—The Rural-Urban Commuting Area Codes classify U.S. census tracts using measures of urbanization, population density, and daily commuting from the 2010 decennial census and 2006-10 American Community Survey.

Frontier and Remote Area Codes—The 2010 Frontier and Remote Area (FAR) codes provide a statistically-based, nationally-consistent, and adjustable definition of territory in the U.S. characterized by low population density and high geographic remoteness.

Socioeconomic Data Based on County Delineations

Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America—The Atlas is a web-based interactive mapping tool that displays a broad range of data at the county level to visualize how social and economic conditions vary in rural areas across the United States. Users can create and download maps and download data.

County Typology Codes—This typology classifies metro and nonmetro counties based on primary economic activity and social characteristics. The six nonoverlapping economic types are:

Also, counties are classified based on seven overlapping policy types:

County-Level Population Data—Population data from the U.S. Census Bureau for 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2020 Decennial Censuses and for the most recent year from the Population Estimates Program

County-Level Poverty Estimates—Poverty estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

County-Level Unemployment, and Median Household Income Estimates—Unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and median household income estimates from U.S. Census Bureau.

County-level Education Data—Education data from 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and the American Community Survey pooled 5-year county data.

Natural Amenities Scale—The Natural Amenities Scale is a measure of the physical characteristics of a county area that enhance the location as a place to live. The scale was constructed by combining measures of warm winter, winter sun, temperate summer, low summer humidity, topographic variation, and water area. The data are available for counties in the lower 48 States.

Other Data

ERS State Fact Sheets provide State-level summaries and links to county data for population, employment, income, farm characteristics, farm financial conditions, and more.

Major Sources of Data Providing Statistics on U.S. Rural Areas—This page describes data available from ERS and other Federal government sources.