Rural Urban Suburban Data
This database classifies ZIP Codes as being predominately Rural, Urban, or Suburban geographical areas (as opposed to the Census which just has urban vs rural). This classification is based on three key factors: population density (people per square mile), distance from nearest city, and size of the nearest city (urban and suburban areas extend farther for larger cities).
Please note that some ZIP Codes are borderline and therefore there is a degree of subjectivity inherent in this database.
We use Census counts and estimations to calculate the population per ZIP Code based on a ZCTA (Zip Code Tabulation Area). It is an approximation of a ZIP Code derived from U.S. Census Bureau databases and in-house research.
This database is updated regularly as ZIP Codes are added and we receive population updates. It is released quarterly. The price includes an initial download and any updates made during the one year subscription period.
Rural Urban Suburban Codes
To better understand the comprehensiveness of this database, it is helpful to contrast it with other attempts to assign demographical areas. For instance, U.S. Census Bureau assigned much broader categories of urban vs. rural only. Therefore, in this more simplistic classification, suburban areas would be tagged as rural or urban only. Also, the Department of Defense established the following designations for a ZIP Code:
- Urban: 3,000+ persons per square mile
- Suburban: 1,000 ‐ 3,000 persons per square mile
- Rural: less than 1,000 persons per square mile
Although better, it is inadequate to use population alone because a lightly populated ZIP Code adjoining a major metropolitan area would be mistakenly classified as a “Rural Area”.
We created a more advanced and relevant database by factoring in additional information beyond urban vs. rural and one that includes the population of an adjoining city and the distance from nearest major city.
ZIP Codes that have no census population counts / estimates, such as military PO Boxes and areas like Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the South Pacific territories, are not designated with a Rural, Urban, or Suburban code.
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