The Multiple Ways Of Identifying Rural Wisconsin

Age, Access And Animals Add Nuance To State's Rural-Urban Divide
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Caitlin McKown/UW Applied Population Laboratory

While differences between rural and urban parts of the U.S. may be vast in many places, drawing those geographic distinctions is not always simple. Whether or not a specific location is designated under either label for any number of official purposes depends on numerous factors, including population density, county and ZIP code borders, commuting patterns and more.

In a June 23, 2017 interview on Wisconsin Public Television's Here & Now, University of Wisconsin Applied Population Laboratory researcher Malia Jones discussed the multiple, overlapping ways in which officials and demographers define rural and urban areas across the state. Noting the growing political profile of rural issues, she highlighted the demographic and economic scope of Wisconsin's more sparsely populated places.

Compared to many other states, Jones said, Wisconsin has a relatively large proportion of its population that lives in places considered to be rural under one definition or another.

"There are big differences in terms of economy, as anyone who has ever been to a rural place would know," she added. "There are specific land uses like agriculture and forestry, mining and manufacturing that are really centered in our rural places."

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