When the U.S. government changes the definitions of words, it may or may not impact the average person at all. But depending on where one lives, this latest move certainly could. The U.S. Census Bureau announced it is updating its definition of an urban area, from one with 2,500 people to now one with more than 5,000.
As a result, 4.2 million people across 1,100 areas in the U.S. who were classified as urban in 2010, are now rural. This could change access for many state and federal programs depending on if one lives in an affected area.
According to the Wall Street Journal, whether an area is classified as urban or rural can affect funding for health care, broadband development, transportation and so on. Some government agencies follow the Census Bureau’s classification, such as the Rural Health Clinic program. Others develop their own criteria.
In a written statement, the Census Bureau said that its previous threshold was “the lowest in use among all federal agencies. We see the change in our minimum threshold as signifying that the Census Bureau is listening to stakeholders and feedback from other agencies and is matching the way others have characterized and classified settlement in the United States.”
The last time the bureau changed the threshold like this was in 1910. Since then, the U.S. population has more than tripled, according to census figures.
Right now, most Americans live in and around major cities and it’s been that way for the past 100 years. This latest change puts Americans at an 80-20 split between urban and rural America.