Rural Research Briefs

Rurality in the United States

Rurality in the United States, (PDF)

For most of the nation’s history, the United States has been a predominately rural place. In 1790 the first U.S census revealed that 95 percent of the population resided in rural areas. The populous remained largely rural throughout much of the 19th century, but settlement patterns started to shift rapidly in the early 20th century in response to an increasingly urban-oriented economy. In 1920, the census reported, for the first time, that more than half of the U.S. population lived in urban areas. From this point until today, the trend towards urbanization in this nation has been unabated.

In this research note HAC analyzes what it means to be rural, how much of the US population lives in rural areas, and explains its definition of rural.