Rural Urban Definitions
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania's definition of rural and urban is based on population density. Population density is calculated by dividing the total population of a specific area by the total number of square land miles of that area.
According to the 2010 Census, the population of Pennsylvania is 12,702,379 and the number of square miles of land in Pennsylvania is 44,743. Therefore, the population density is 284 persons per square mile.
County or school district definition
A county or school district is rural when the number of persons per square mile within the county or school district is less than 284. Counties and school districts that have 284 persons or more per square mile are considered urban.
A municipality is rural when the population density within the municipality is less than the statewide density of 284 persons per square mile, or the total population is less than 2,500, unless more than 50 percent of the population lives in an urbanized area as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. All other municipalities are considered urban.
Applying the definition
According to the Center's definition, Pennsylvania has 48 rural counties and 19 urban counties. In 2010, nearly 3.5 million residents, or 27 percent of the state's 12.7 million residents, lived in a rural county.
At the school district level, 235 of the state's 500 public school districts are rural. During the 2008-2009 school year, more than 458,300 public school students or 26 percent of the state's nearly 1.79 million public school students, attended school in a rural district,
At the municipal level, 1,592, or 62 percent, of the state's 2,562 municipalities are rural and 970 municipalities, or 38 percent, are urban.
Population Density by County
(Note: Underlined counties are rural.)