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Our Rural Communities

The 2020 Census will have a direct impact on small towns and rural areas across the country for the next 10 years.


The results of the 2020 Census will help communities plan for the future. And they will shape how hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding are distributed across the country—for business development, rural education, and much more. 

Here's a closer look at our country's smaller towns and cities—what the 2010 Census revealed and how the 2020 Census can help shape the next 10 years.

Rural Counties by the Numbers

* The U.S. Census Bureau defines as rural any population, housing, or territory not in an urban area. So what is an urban area? It's a densely developed area with at least 2,500 people.


Shaping Our Communities

From disaster planning to small business development, Medicare Part B to highway construction, policymakers use census data to plan and fund many programs that affect rural communities.

Census data also shapes programs related to the following:

  • Rural education.
  • Rural business enterprise grants.
  • Rural home rental assistance.
  • Water and waste disposal systems for rural communities.
  • State wildlife grants.
  • Rural housing preservation grants.
  • Hunter education and safety.

"When residents live in an area that's more rural than urban, they are trying to make decisions like how to build schools, what services need to be offered," said Mary Craigle, Chief of the Research and Information Services Bureau at the Montana Department of Commerce.

"Really, the only source of data that we have is U.S. Census Bureau data. The census is the one chance to get that really great information for rural America."


The Next Generation

The 2020 Census will help update that picture, illustrating the number of children across the country, and where exactly they are living. These results can make a direct impact on children's lives, shaping resources for health insurance programs, hospitals, child care, food assistance, schools, and early childhood development programs.


Sign up to receive updates when 2020 Census results become available.

Explore our Rural America visualization and 2016 American Community Survey data to learn more about the statistics shared here.


Learn more about how rural areas are counted on America Counts.