Rural Urban Suburban Data

Geographical Assignment by ZIP Code

This database categorizes ZIP Codes into geographical areas. Each ZIP Code is classified as predominately Rural, Urban, or Suburban based on three key factors: population density (people per square mile), distance from nearest city, and size of the nearest city (suburban areas for larger cities extend greater distances).

We use Census counts and the latest 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. We believe this database is more comprehensive than other classifications available.

This database is updated regularly as ZIP Codes are added and population updates are received. It is released quarterly. The price includes an initial download and updates made throughout the annual subscription period. Some ZIP Codes are borderline and therefore there is a degree of subjectivity inherent in this kind of database.
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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.

Learn more: view the Product Documentation / Watch our Rural, Urban and Suburban video / Watch our Accuracy Matters video

Database Sources

We are licensees of USPS database products, but we enhance our databases based on decades of experience to provide you with the most accurate product available.

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Related Links

Core-Based Statistical Areas - CBSA Codes
Medicare CBSA Codes Database
Canadian Rural, Urban, Suburban (Metropolitan - CMA, Agglomerations - CA)