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In the National Interest: Defining Rural and Urban Correctly in Research and Public Policy

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  • Andrew M. Isserman

    (Departments of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois, Urbana

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    Researchers and policy makers depend on two federal systems when defining urban and rural. One, designed by the U.S. Census Bureau, separates the territory of the nation into urban and rural. Its intent is to differentiate urban and rural. The other, designed under the leadership of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), focuses on the integration of urban and rural within metropolitan and micropolitan areas. Forgetting the distinction between separation and integration is dangerous, for example, when (mis)using the OMB system as if it differentiated between urban and rural. At stake is the misunderstanding of rural conditions, the misdirection of federal programs and funds, and a breakdown of communication that confuses people. This article presents two alternatives that can strengthen the foundations of research and policy and uses one of them to analyze rural distress and prosperity. Much can be gained by using these better rural definitions to replicate important research to see whether key findings hold true and to review eligibility requirements and funding procedures to determine whether government programs are reaching the rural people and places they are intended to serve.

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    Article provided by in its journal International Regional Science Review.

    Volume (Year): 28 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 4 (October)
    Pages: 465-499

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    Handle: RePEc:sae:inrsre:v:28:y:2005:i:4:p:465-499
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