Defining the Rural West

Defining the Rural West

The Rural West has many definitions, depending on the subject at hand. Opening presentation to the 2015 Eccles Rural West Conference in Troutdale, Oregon.


Geoff McGhee

March 04, 2015




  3. DEFINING RURAL U.S. Census Bureau • The “official” or “default”

    definition • Based on land use patterns: “the picture you would get of a settlement from an airplane” – USDA • “Not urban:” population outside: • “urbanized areas” > 50,000 pop. • “urban clusters” 2,500 - 50k • 19.3% of U.S. population “rural” in 2010
 - 59.4 million people! Census Bureau
  4. Census Bureau U.S. Census Bureau DEFINING RURAL

  5. DEFINING RURAL Office of Management & Budget • “Core-based statistical

    areas” • Views cities as economic entities; rurality as what lies outside of their influence – as defined through regular commuting patterns • "Metropolitan," "Micropolitan" and a third unnamed categorization commonly called "non-core" or "non-metro"
  6. DEFINING RURAL Office of Management & Budget

  7. DEFINING RURAL U.S. Department of Agriculture • “Rural-Urban Continuum Codes”

    • Beyond urban/non-urban binary • Scale of rurality combining OMB “metro/ micro/non-core” concept with fine- grained analysis of commuting patterns • 10 codes: • 1 - 3: urban • 4 -10: somewhat to remotely rural
  8. DEFINING RURAL U.S. Department of Agriculture




  12. Am I Rural?

  13. Screen shot of AM I RURAL?

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  17. “The rural west is defined by... sparse population”

  18. DEFINING THE RURAL WEST Frontier Counties < 7 people per

    sq. mi. Census Bureau, RAC
  19. Lights from Space DEFINING THE RURAL WEST NASA

  20. “The rural west is defined by... distance”

  21. DEFINING THE RURAL WEST Distribution of Public Libraries

  22. DEFINING THE RURAL WEST Distribution of Zip Codes

  23. DEFINING THE RURAL WEST Libraries and Zip Codes

  24. Distance Between Public Libraries DEFINING THE RURAL WEST

  25. Distance Between Zip Code Centers DEFINING THE RURAL WEST

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  27. “The rural west is defined by... disconnectedness”

  28. DEFINING THE RURAL WEST The “Three Wests” Headwaters Economics

  29. DEFINING THE RURAL WEST The “Three Wests” Headwaters Economics

  30. Broadband Internet Availability DEFINING THE RURAL WEST National Broadband Map


  32. Rural West Conference Volume Fall 2015

  33. Rural West Conference Volume Foreword David M. Kennedy Introduction David

    B. Danbom Defining the Rural West Finding the Rural West Jon K. Lauck Conquering Distance? Broadband and the Rural West Geoff McGhee Community Too Close for Comfort: When Big Stories Hit Small Towns Judy Muller On Water and Wolves: Toward an Integrative Political Ecology of the “New” West J. Dwight Hines Irrigation Communities, Political Cultures, and the Public in the Age of Depletion Burke W. Griggs Health Disparities Among Latino Immigrants Living in the Rural West Marc Schenker The Rural Western Economy Energy Development: Opportunities and Challenges in the Rural West Mark N. Haggerty and Julia H. Haggerty The New Natural Resource Economy: A Framework for Rural Community Resilience Michael Hibbard and Susan Lurie Land Use in the Rural West The Angry West: Understanding the Sagebrush Rebellion in Rural Nevada Leisl Carr Childers Skull Valley Goshutes and the Politics of Place, Identity, and Sovereignty in Rural Utah David Rich Lewis
  34. Bridging the Distance Common Issues of the Rural West Edited

    by David B. Danbom Bridging the Distance examines a number of the problems and prospects of the rural West that have largely been neglected by scholars. The issues are considered in four sections—Defining the Rural West, Community, Economy, and Land Use—each with an introduction by editor David Danbom. The essays highlight factors that set the region apart from the rest of the country and provide varied perspectives on challenges faced by those living in often isolated areas. They cover matters such as the effects of a hazing incident and resulting media coverage that divided a small Colorado town; challenges in Montana and Wyoming where the ideas of new exurbanites regarding natural resources differ from those of long-time residents; conflicts between surface water and ground water users in Colo- rado, Kansas, and Nebraska; and the shortcomings of health care among Latino immigrants in rural California. Essays on rural economy suggest how states can better use fiscal policies to advance long-term economic health and how resources can be exploited in ways that are both environ- mentally and economically sustainable, one land use essay shares the viewpoint of a Nevada ranching family that has long struggled with the government over cattle grazing on federal lands while another examines the case of the Goshute Indians of Skull Valley, whose efforts to use their reservation for nuclear-waste storage roused the ire of the state of Utah. The essays in Bridging the Distance are fresh, informative, and in- sightful examinations of the complex problems facing the rural West. This is a book that will spur conversations and the search for solutions. David B. Danbom is the Fargo Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Professor Emeritus at North Dakota State University, where he taught for 36 years. He has authored six books, most recently Born in the Country: A History of Rural America and Sod Busting: How Families Made Farms on the Nineteenth-Century Plains. TO ORDER: phone 800-621-2736 fax 800-621-8476 email: For publicity inquiries, contact Hannah New, Marketing Manager, at 801-585-9786 or The University of Utah Press J.Willard Marriott Library | THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH “These essays are pertinent, offering valuable perspectives and insights.” —William D. Rowley, author of Reclaiming the Arid West: The Career of Francis G. Newlands Coming in Fall 2015 “This book represents current thinking across a variety of disciplines regarding the rural West. It is up-to-date and offers a fresh look at challenges facing the region. By combin- ing data with thoughtful reflections and proposals, the book provides a foundation for further investigation and discussion.” —Brian Q. Cannon, coeditor of Immigration to the Far West and coauthor of The Awkward State of Utah: Coming of Age in the Nation, 1896–1945 (both University of Utah Press) Published in Cooperation with the Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University
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