Large demographic shifts are reshaping America. In urban counties, nonwhites now make up a clear majority of the population, while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. Rural counties, however, have made only minimal population gains since 2000 as more people have left for urban or suburban areas than have moved in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.
These trends are making urban, suburban and rural counties more distinct from one another. This may help explain why a new Pew Research Center survey finds most urban and rural residents feel misunderstood by those who live in other types of communities.
While classifying counties as urban, suburban and rural is useful in helping understand how the country is changing, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a great deal of diversity within community types. To understand how these changes are playing out in your own community, use our interactive feature below, which has data on the nation’s 3,142 counties and county equivalents (such as parishes and independent cities). For this analysis, counties were classified as urban, suburban or rural using the National Center for Health Statistics’ 2013 Urban-Rural Classification Scheme, which takes into account whether or not a county is located within a metropolitan area.
Note: See full methodology for more information.