Defining rural areas: "Nonmetro" is based on counties

Metro and nonmetro counties, 2023

The Economic Research Service and others who analyze conditions in "rural" America most often study conditions in nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) areas, which are defined by the Office of Management and Budget on the basis of counties. Nonmetro counties include some combination of open countryside, rural towns (places with fewer than 5,000 people), and urban areas (with populations ranging from 5,000 to 49,999) that are not part of larger labor market areas (metropolitan areas). The 1,958 counties currently classified as nonmetro include 14 percent of the U.S. population (just over 46 million people) and 72 percent of the Nation's land area.

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