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Rural Definitions

We recognize four main definitions of rural:

  • Oregon Office of Rural Health
  • US Census Bureau
  • Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs)
  • Rural-Urban Commuting Areas (RUCAs)

Oregon Office of Rural Health

What is Rural

All geographic areas in Oregon 10 or more miles from the centroid of a population center of 40,000 people or more.

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Health Policy Use

  • Oregon Rural Practitioner Tax Credit qualification
  • Oregon Rural Volunteer EMS Provider Tax Credit qualification
  • Oregon Rural Medical Practitioners Insurance Subsidy Program qualification
  • Rural areas only are included in Unmet Healthcare Need determination.

Download a table on how these different definitions of Rural affect healthcare policy.

Download a list of Oregon Zip Codes and their ORH Urban/Rural Designation.

Is my community rural? Learn more.

US Census Bureau

What is Rural

All population and territory that is NOT an Urbanized Area (UA) or Urban Cluster (UC).

Definitions

  • Urbanized Area (UA): Consists of contiguous, densely settled census block groups (BG) and census blocks, at least 500 people per square mile (ppsm), that together encompass a population of more than 50,000.
  • Urban Cluster (UC): Consists of contiguous, densely settled BGs and census blocks (500 ppsm) that together encompasses a population of at least 2,500 people but less than 50,000 people.

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  • Population numbers based on 2010 Census
  • Updated decennially

Health Policy Use

Clinics located outside of "Urbanized Areas" are geographically eligible for Rural Health Clinic designation.

For more information visit the Census Bureau on urban and rural classification.

Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs)

What is Rural

All counties that are NOT a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)

Definitions

  • Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA):
    • A county with at least one Census Bureau-defined Urbanized Area (UA) of 50,000 or more population
    • Outlying counties that have a commuting rate of 15% or over to central counties
  • Micropolitan Statistical Areas:
    • A county that has at least one Census Bureau-defined Urban Cluster (UC) of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population
    • Adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties

Update Status

  • Population numbers from 2010 Census
  • Updated every few years

Health Policy Use

Used to categorize hospitals as either rural or urban for purposes of Medicare reimbursement.

For more information please visit the Census Bureau.

Rural-Urban Commuting Areas (RUCAs)

What is Rural

ZIP Codes or Census Tracts that are categorized 4 to 10

Definitions

30 categories according to size and commuting patterns:

  1. Metro area Core (>50,000)
  2. Metro area, high commute
  3. Metro area, low commute
  4. Large town Core (10,000-49,999)
  5. Large town, high commute
  6. Large town, low commute
  7. Small town core (2,500-9,999)
  8. Small town, high commute
  9. Small town, low commute
  10. Rural area (<2,500)

Update Status

  • ZIP Code version based on 2000 Census—update to 2010 Census in summer 2014
  • Census tract version based on 2010 Census, updated December 2013

Health Policy Use

Areas categorized 4-10 are eligible for grants issued by FORHP (Federal Office of Rural Health Policy):

  • Rural Health Outreach
  • Network Development

For more information on the RUCA ZIP Code definition visit the WWAMI Rural Health Research Center (RHRC). For more information on the RUCA Census Tract definition visit the USDA-ERS.