Rural Area

Rural Area

A rural area is an open swath of land that has few homes or other buildings, and not very many people. A rural area’s population density is very low.


5 - 8


Geography, Human Geography, Sociology

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A rural area is an open swath of land that has few homes or other buildings, and not very many people.

A rural areas population density is very low. Many people live in a city, or urban area. Their homes and businesses are located very close to one another. In a rural area, there are fewer people, and their homes and businesses are located far away from one another.

Agriculture is the primary industry in most rural areas. Most people live or work on farms or ranches. Hamlets, villages, towns, and other small settlements are in or surrounded by rural areas.

Wildlife is more frequently found in rural areas than in cities because of the absence of people and buildings. In fact, rural areas are often called the country because residents can see and interact with the country's native wildlife.

Throughout the world, more people live in rural areas than in urban areas. This has been changing rapidly, however. Urbanization is happening all over the world. In Asia, for example, the United Nations estimates that the urban population will increase by almost two billion by 2050.

Shift to Cities
People are migrating to urban areas for many reasons, including agricultural technology, industrial technology, and the hope of changing ones economic circumstances.

Agricultural technology has decreased the need for agricultural workers. Improved transportation, tools, fertilizer, and genetically modified crops mean fewer farmworkers harvest more food. This decreased need for farm employment drives many farmworkers into cities in search of jobs.

Industrial technology has created many jobs unique to urban areas. Developing countries often have resource-based economies, meaning most people make their living from agriculture, timber, mining, or other harvesting of natural resources. These natural resources are most often located in rural areas. As developing countries expand the use of industrial technology, they often shift their focus to a service-based economy. Service-based economies use industrial technology to provide finished goods and services to people inside and outside their countries.

India, for instance, is a country where many people practice agriculture in rural areas. As the Indian economy develops, however, more people migrate to urban areas like Bangalore to work in the technology industry. Instead of providing the raw materials (metals) for computer chips to nations like the United States, Indian companies now manufacture the computer chips themselves.

Centers of learning, such as universities, hospitals, and regional government, are usually located in urban areas. Many rural residents travel to cities to take advantage of economic opportunities there.

The cost of living in urban areas is usually much higher than in rural areas. It costs more to rent a house, buy food, and use transportation. For this reason, wages are usually higher in urban areas. The search for higher wages is another reason people migrate from rural areas.

In the United States, rural areas take up about 98 percent of the country but are home to only 25 percent of the population. In Ethiopia, a less-developed country where agricultural jobs are much more common, 87 percent of the people live in rural areas.

Fast Fact

By the Numbers
In the United States, the Census Bureau classifies a rural area as a town with fewer than 1,000 people per 2.6 square kilometers (square mile), and surrounding areas with fewer than 500 people per 2.6 square kilometers (square mile).

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Hilary Costa
Erin Sprout
Santani Teng
Melissa McDaniel
Jeff Hunt
Diane Boudreau
Tara Ramroop
Kim Rutledge
Hilary Hall
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society
Tim Gunther
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
Educator Reviewer
Nancy Wynne
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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