Oregon Office of Rural Health

About Rural and Frontier Data

About Rural and Frontier Data

The Oregon Office of Rural Health defines:

Rural as any geographic areas in Oregon ten or more miles from the centroid of a population center of 40,000 people or more.

Frontier as any county with six or fewer people per square mile. ORH has identified 10 of Oregon’s 36 counties as frontier.

ORH uses population numbers from the Population Research Center at Portland State University for incorporated cities and counties, and numbers from Claritas for Oregon Zip Codes.

Using 2019 Claritas data, 33% (1,166,154) of Oregon’s population lives in rural areas, 2% (94,669) in frontier, and 65% (2,160,564) in urban areas.

Rural/Urban Designations

Other Recognized Definitions of Rural and Frontier

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

Update Status

  • 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.

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.

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 2010 Census, updated August 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).

For more information, visit the WWAMI Rural Health Research Center (RHRC).

What is Frontier

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) developed four levels of ZIP-code-level frontier and remote area (FAR) codes ranging from one that is relatively inclusive (12.2 million FAR level one residents) to one that is more restrictive (2.3 million FAR level four residents).

Definitions

FAR level one: ZIP code areas with majority populations living 60 minutes or more from urban areas of 50,000 or more.

FAR level two: ZIP code areas with majority populations living 60 minutes or more from urban areas of 50,000 or more people and 45 minutes or more from urban areas of 25,000-49,999 people.

FAR level three: ZIP code areas with majority populations living 60 minutes or more from urban areas of 50,000 or more people; and 45 minutes or more from urban areas of 25,000-49,999 people; and 30 minutes or more from urban areas of 10,000- 24,999 people.

FAR level four: ZIP code areas with majority populations living 60 minutes or more from urban areas of 50,000 or more people; and 45 minutes or more from urban areas of 25,000-49,999 people; and 30 minutes or more from urban areas of 10,000- 24,999 people; and 15 minutes or more from urban areas of 2,500-9,999 people.

FAR maps

Update Status

  • ZIP Code version based on 2010 Census
  • Updated decennially

Health Policy Use

Currently none.

For more information, visit the USDA ERS website.

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

Use the Am I Rural Tool to search for rural definitions for your community.

Questions?

Contact: Emerson Ong, Data/GIS Analyst | onge@ohsu.edu | 503-494-5526