By the Numbers
In the United States, the Census Bureau classifies a rural area as a town with fewer than 1,000 people per 2.6 square kilometers (square mile), and surrounding areas with fewer than 500 people per 2.6 square kilometers (square mile).
A rural area is an open swath of land that has few homes or other buildings, and not very many people.
A rural areas population density is very low. Many people live in a city, or urban area. Their homes and businesses are located very close to one another. In a rural area, there are fewer people, and their homes and businesses are located far away from one another.
Agriculture is the primary industry in most rural areas. Most people live or work on farms or ranches. Hamlets, villages, towns, and other small settlements are in or surrounded by rural areas.
Wildlife is more frequently found in rural areas than in cities because of the absence of people and buildings. In fact, rural areas are often called the country because residents can see and interact with the countrys native wildlife.
Throughout the world, more people live in rural areas than in urban areas. This has been changing rapidly, however. Urbanization is happening all over the world. In Asia, for example, the United Nations estimates that the urban population will increase by almost 2 billion by 2050.
Shift to Cities
People are migrating to urban areas for many reasons, including agricultural technology, industrial technology, and the hope of changing ones economic circumstances.
Agricultural technology has decreased the need for agricultural workers. Improved transportation, tools, fertilizer, and genetically modified crops mean fewer farmworkers harvest more food. This decreased need for farm employment drives many farmworkers into cities in search of jobs.
Industrial technology has created many jobs unique to urban areas. Developing countries often have resource-based economies, meaning most people make their living from agriculture, timber, mining, or other harvesting of natural resources. These natural resources are most often located in rural areas. As developing countries expand the use of industrial technology, they often shift their focus to a service-based economy. Service-based economies use industrial technology to provide finished goods and services to people inside and outside their countries.
India, for instance, is a country where many people practice agriculture in rural areas. As the Indian economy develops, however, more people migrate to urban areas like Bangalore to work in the technology industry. Instead of providing the raw materials (metals) for computer chips to nations like the United States, Indian companies now manufacture the computer chips themselves.
Centers of learning, such as universities, hospitals, and regional government, are usually located in urban areas. Many rural residents travel to cities to take advantage of economic opportunities there.
The cost of living in urban areas is usually much higher than in rural areas. It costs more to rent a house, buy food, and use transportation. For this reason, wages are usually higher in urban areas. The search for higher wages is another reason people migrate from rural areas.
In the United States, rural areas take up about 98 percent of the country but are home to only 25 percent of the population. In Ethiopia, a less-developed country where agricultural jobs are much more common, 87 percent of the people live in rural areas.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry absence Noun
not present, or a total lack of material.
agricultural technology Noun
the art and science of complex machines used to perform tasks associated with farming and ranching.
the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).
Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture Census Bureau Noun
government organization responsible for demographic information about the U.S. population, as well as the analyzing of that data.
condition or situation.
large settlement with a high population density.
to identify or arrange by specific type or characteristic.
computer chip Noun
small electrical device that determines the capabilities of a computer. Also called an integrated circuit and microchip.
cost of living Noun
money needed to maintain a style of life, including access to specific goods and services.
developing world Noun
nations with low per-capita income, little infrastructure, and a small middle class.
having to do with money.
economic opportunity Noun
situation for a person or group of people to improve their standard of living.
system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
job or work.
to guess based on knowledge of the situation or object.
land cultivated for crops, livestock, or both.
person who works on a farm or ranch but does not own the land. Also called a farm hand.
nutrient-rich chemical substance (natural or manmade) applied to soil to encourage plant growth.
finished good Noun
item assembled and ready for sale.
genetically modified organism (GMO) Noun
living thing whose genes (DNA) have been altered for a specific purpose.
system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.
very small village.
institution for taking care of sick or injured people.
industrial technology Noun
the art and science of complex machines used to perform manufacuring tasks.
activity that produces goods and services.
to make or produce a good, usually for sale.
category of elements that are usually solid and shiny at room temperature.
to move from one place or activity to another.
process of extracting ore from the Earth.
natural resource Noun
a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.
population density Noun
the number of people living in a set area, such as a square mile.
first or most important.
large farm on which livestock are raised.
raw material Noun
matter that needs to be processed into a product to use or sell.
payment for use of a piece of property for a certain amount of time, usually a month.
resource-based economy Noun
a system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services based on development of natural resources. Also called the primary sector.
rural area Noun
regions with low population density and large amounts of undeveloped land. Also called "the country."
Encyclopedic Entry: rural area service-based economy Noun
a system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services based on the manufacture of finished goods and providing of services.
community or village.
path or line of material.
the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.
wood in an unfinished form, either trees or logs.
instrument used to help in the performance of a task.
human settlement larger than a village and smaller than a city.
movement of people or goods from one place to another.
United Nations Noun
international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.
institution for learning at the highest level.
urban area Noun
developed, densely populated area where most inhabitants have nonagricultural jobs.
Encyclopedic Entry: urban area urbanization Noun
process in which there is an increase in the number of people living and working in a city or metropolitan area.
small human settlement usually found in a rural setting.
Encyclopedic Entry: village wage Noun
money paid to a person for providing goods or services.
organisms living in a natural environment.