, Volume 83, Issue 4, pp 803–817 | Cite as

Using small spatial units to refine our perception of rural America

  • François-Michel Le Tourneau


More than half of the US rural population lives inside metro or micropolitan areas and even at more disaggregated scales, such as the census tracts, most spatial units mix rural and urban population. At a national scale, only 30% of the country are inhabited by 100% urban or 100% rural population, implying that more than two third of the US territory are somewhere in between both situations. As the rural/urban dichotomy appears today to be blurred by the emergence of new phenomena like rurbanization or exurbanization, our perception of rural America may be somewhat twisted and the reality of rural areas underplayed. This paper focuses on using finer-grade spatial units such as the census blocks and block groups, in order to provide new elements about the extension, localization and characteristics of rural America as well as about its inner dynamics. To that end, we analyze and process geographical and social data at these two levels of information, and use population density as a main factor of analysis. This allows us not only to propose new measurement of the extent of rural space in the USA but also to propose a new vision of its spatial dynamics by studying how several social indicators such as income, median age or sex ratio reveal regional and micro-regional variations and situations in the rural part of the US.


Rural America Population density Social indicators Rural geography Spatial dynamics 



This research was funded by the French National Center for Scientific Research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Author declares that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMI 3157 - iGLOBES, CNRS-University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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