Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ

How do I determine if my geographic area of interest is urban or rural?

In March 2012, the Census Bureau released the list of Urban Areas and their boundaries, based on the data from the 2010 Census.  The Census Bureau is still working on tabulating the data for the Urban Areas.  The data will be released through the American FactFinder (AFF) in the fall of 2012.  At that time, you will be able to use the AFF to determine if your geographic area of interest is urban or rural. 


Until the urban/rural data is released in AFF, the urban area relationship files or the attribute file associated with the Topological Faces shapefile can be used to determine if your area of interest is urban or rural.  


It is important to note that the U.S. Census Bureau defines urban and rural at the block level. Therefore, geographic entities, including cities, towns and census tracts, may be urban (located wholly within an urban area), rural (located entirely outside an urban area), or contain both urban and rural territory (only the densely settled portion of the city is within an urban area).

Determining urban or rural for counties, cities, towns, metropolitan areas, and ZIP Code™ tabulation areas

Relationship files are available for places, counties, county subdivisions, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, and NECTAs. Each relationship file has at least one record for every entity the Census Bureau recognizes.  For example, to determine if your city is urban or rural, use the Place relationship file.  First, search for your city name in the PLNAME column to determine the corresponding urban area from the UANAME column. If your city is not in an urban area, 'Not in a 2010 urban area' will be displayed in the UANAME column. If your city name has more than one record, portions of the city may be in more than one urban area or portions of the city may fall outside of the 2010 urban area boundaries.

Determining urban or rural for census tracts and other geographic areas without relationship files

For geographic areas that do not have relationships files, such as census tracts, school districts and voting districts, the attribute file associated with the Topological Faces shapefile can be used to determine if your area of interest is urban or rural.   

Download and Open the Topological Faces DBF File

1.    Go to the download page for the 2010 TIGER/Line Shapefiles.
2.    In the drop-down menu, select Relationship Files and click Submit.
3.    Under Topological Faces (Polygons with all Geocodes) Shapefile, select your state, and click Submit.
4.    Select your county and then click Download.
5.    A zipped file containing five separate files will download.  Extract the DBF file and save it to your computer.
6.    Open your spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel.
7.    Select File/Open. Under File Type, select All Files. Select and open your DBF file.

Using the Topological Faces DBF file to determine Urban or Rural

1.    In the spreadsheet, select the column for the type of entity you are looking for, for instance, select the column for TRACTCE10, if looking for a 2010 census tract. (TRACTCE00 is the 2000 census tract number.)
2.    Sort this column from A to Z, making sure to ‘expand your sort,’ so that each tract number is grouped together.
3.    Find the tract number you are interested in and highlight all of the rows with that number.
4.    Scroll to the right and look at the column titled UACE10.  This is the Urban Area Code.  If the field is blank, it means that the face is not in an Urban Area and is therefore ‘rural.’  If the field contains a code, then it means that the face is in an Urbanized Area or Urban Cluster and is therefore ‘urban.’  If the UACE10 field is populated for all of the rows with your tract number, then the tract is ‘urban.’  If it is blank for all of the rows, then the tract is ‘rural.’  If only some of the rows are populated, then the tract is ‘mixed.’  If you see different codes in the UACE10 column, that means that the tract falls into more than one Urban Area.

A list of all of UACE codes and their corresponding names can be found on the 2010 Census Urban and Rural Classification webpage. 

Reference Maps

The 2010 Urban Areas can also be viewed using Reference maps and the TIGERweb interactive web mapping system.  Finally, if you have access to GIS software, you can also use the TIGER/Line®shapefiles to map the urban areas.

For more information about Urban Areas, please see our 2010 Census Urban and Rural Classification and Urban Area Criteria page.


(FAQ6403)

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