What about the rural?

For some time now I have been interested in understanding how policies affect and shape the development of rural communities. Understandably so, most policies aim to “do the most amount of good for the most amount of people”, which means that they are targeted toward large metropolitan areas and urban centers. But in my head the question that continues to ring is, but what about the rural? This is the first of a series of posts about the rural condition.

U.S. Census Bureau defines rural as any population, housing, or territory NOT in an urban area. So by its definition, rural is not a self-defined condition, but it is the absence of the urban. Then it goes forward to define urbanized areas as having a population of 50,000 or more. The green area on the map above (US Census) represents all the area in the US that falls under the classification of rural based on this definition.

Here’s a good way to look at the US.

  • 64.4% of the total rural population lives east of the Mississippi River.
  • Only 10% of the total population in the West region live in rural areas
  • Nearly half (46.7%) of all people living in rural areas are in the South region, which is about 28 million people

In an even more staggering view, the UN projects that by year 2050, 68% of the world population will be living in urban areas.

We understand that urban areas depend in rural areas to subsist and to feed their need for food, water, raw materials, renewable resources, fossil fuels, etc. Conversely, we also know that rural areas depend on urban areas for employment opportunities, markets, technology, etc.

Living in South Dakota we understand the challenges of low density since we are the fifth least populated state with 11.3 people per square mile. Alaska is the least densely populated state in the United States, with only 1.3 people per square mile. Wyoming is the second least densely populated state with six people per every square mile (1). This list is followed by two of our neighbors with Montana counting on 7.1 people per square mile and North Dakota 11.0.

I am a transplant to South Dakota, the state I lived in since 2005, the state where my three children were born and where we have decided to settle and call home. I’m originally from Puerto Rico, where the density measures at 1,112.1 people per square mile. For a sense of scale, Puerto Rico is roughly the same land areas a Pennington County, where Rapid City is located.

There’s more to come on this topic, but in the meantime share with us how living and working in a rural community / state informs how you live.


3 Replies to “What about the rural?”

  1. Growing up in a rural community, I detassled corn in middle school. It was good money at that age, and it taught me great work ethics that I still use today.

  2. Awesome post Patri – I’m excited to read more! This seems to be a really important conversation right now.

    I’d be interested to know what percentage of the population lives in the “urban” areas versus the “rural” areas as it’s defined here.

  3. It wasn’t until leaving South Dakota that I thought more critically about the rural. We don’t think much about the large distances that separates us, but I have had friends visit who are disconcerted and anxious by the open space. We think of places like Sioux Falls and Rapid City as urban, but we are all rural to the outside. I believe urbanism and access to local services is important to the survival of rural communities, but the urbanism of many rural communities has already been eroded. Thank you for the interesting read Patri!

Leave a Reply