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Definition of Rural and Economic Classifications

The U.S. Census Bureau defines rural as all population, housing, and territory not included within “urbanized areas."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, urbanized areas comprise larger places and the densely settled areas around them. Urbanized areas have an urban nucleus of 50,000 or more people. In general, they must have a core with a population density of 1,000 persons per square mile and may contain adjoining territory with at least 500 persons per square mile. Rural counties have less than 50% of their population living in an urbanized area. 

Census Urbanized - 01
Census Urbanized - 02

Tennessee uses the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) index-based county economic classification system to identify and monitor the economic status of counties. The ARC system involves the creation of a national index of county economic status through a comparison of each county's averages for three economic indicators—three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income, and poverty rate—with national averages. The resulting values are summed and averaged to create a composite index value for each county. Each county in the nation is then ranked, based on its composite index value, with higher values indicating higher levels of distress.

County Economic Levels

Each county is classified into one of five economic status designations, based on its position in the national ranking as shown in the chart below.

ARC County Economic Status Designation by National Index Value Rank

ARC designations