Common Core of Data (CCD)

Identification of Rural Locales


Overview

What are locale codes?
“Locale codes” are derived from a classification system originally developed by NCES in the 1980’s to describe a school’s location ranging from “large city” to “rural.”  The codes are based on the physical location represented by an address that is matched against a geographic database maintained by the Census Bureau.  This database is the Topographically Integrated and Geographically Encoded Referencing system, or TIGER.

In 2005 and 2006, NCES supported work by the Census Bureau to redesign the original locale codes in light of changes in the U.S. population and the definition of key geographic concepts.

Why did NCES revise its locale code system?
Two developments following the 2000 Decennial Census led to a change in NCES’s locale code system. The first was the substantial improvement in geocoding technology that made it possible to locate addresses precisely, using longitude and latitude coordinates.

The second development was a change in the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) definition of metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.  OMB re-examines and fine-tunes basic geographic concepts and definitions after every decennial Census.  The revisions following the 2000 census were more extensive than they had been in 1990 and 1980.  OMB introduced a “core based statistical area” system that relied less on population size and county boundaries and more on the proximity of an address to an urbanized area.

What are the new locale codes like?
The new locale codes are based on an address’s proximity to an urbanized area (a densely settled core with densely settled surrounding areas).  This is a change from the original system based on metropolitan statistical areas.  To distinguish the two systems, the new system is referred to as “urban-centric locale codes.”

The urban-centric locale code system classifies territory into four major types: city, suburban, town, and rural.  Each type has three subcategories.  For city and suburb, these are gradations of size – large, midsize, and small.  Towns and rural areas are further distinguished by their distance from an urbanized area.  They can be characterized as fringe, distant, or remote.

What is the net effect of the change to an urban-centric system?
Compared to the old locale code system, the urban-centric locale codes allow more precision in describing an area.  For example, there is a new category for small cities, and rural areas that are truly remote can be distinguished from those closer to an urban core.  The urban-centric system places a larger number of addresses in town locales and correspondingly fewer in suburbs/urban fringe.  However, the percent of schools that are in city locales does not change much with the urban-centric system.  The same is true for the percent of schools in rural locales.

How accurate are urban-centric locale codes?
Geocoding technology has made it possible to know the exact latitude and longitude of about 91 percent of schools, and somewhat less precise locations for the remaining 9 percent.  The TIGER database used in assigning locale codes updates information for about one-third of communities every year through the American Community Survey.  These developments make today’s locale codes far more accurate than was possible in the past.

How are locale codes assigned to school districts?
A school district’s locale code is not assigned on the basis of the central office address. It is derived from the locale codes of the schools in the district. If 50 percent or more of the public school students attend schools with the same locale code, that locale code is assigned to the district. For example, if 60 percent of students were enrolled in schools with a “rural - distant” locale code, and 40 percent were enrolled in schools with a “town - small” locale code, the district would be assigned a “rural – distant” locale code.  If no single locale code accounts for 50 percent of the students, then the major category (city, suburb, town, or rural) with the greatest percent of students determines the locale; the locale code assigned is the smallest or most remote subcategory for that category.

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Justification for New Classificatory Scheme for Locale Codes

NCES supported the Census Bureau in developing a new classificatory scheme that would improve the technical consistency, conceptual coherence, and analytic utility of geographic classifications.  The previous classificatory scheme had a number of shortcomings that the redesigned framework is intended to address including: the lack of a designation for small cities, a de facto suburban classification, a substantial undercount of town school districts, an ineffective distance proxy that could not distinguish rural schools in remote, isolated areas from those nearer to urban cores, and the lack of a proximity measure for towns to urban cores.

The new framework introduces a number of changes that improve the usefulness of school and district Common Core of Data locale assignments for analytic and program purposes. Some of the key advantages that the Census Bureau identified include:

Urban-centric criteria: The new typology is constructed from urban-centric rather than metro-centric criteria, and is therefore free of the artificial constraints and problems previously imposed by metro county boundaries. This change allows towns to be located relatively close to larger urban cores, and it prevents the creation of untenably distant suburbs.

GIS: The framework relies on a geographic information system (GIS) to classify territory and then to assess the relationship of school location relative to the classified territory. This approach not only provides the ability to identify hierarchical relationships (i.e., X is located within Y), but also provides the flexibility to identify other spatial relationships (e.g., the distance from X to Z).

Suburban:  The framework provides an explicit suburban classification with clear criteria that identify a more limited and justifiable portion of urban territory than compared with the current urban fringe categories.
 
Small City: The introduction of a new small city category offers much needed variation to the overly large set of midsize cities currently identified by the CCD.

Distance indicators: One of the primary advantages of the proposed locale framework is the use of explicit distance measures to identify town and rural subtypes. Unlike the previous CCD framework that differentiates towns on the basis of population size, the new typology classifies towns according to their proximity to larger urban cores. This approach considers potential spatial relationships and acknowledges the likely interaction between urban cores based on their relative locations. Rural subtypes are similar in that they identify rural territory relative to urban cores. This distinction avoids the often-misleading distance proxy based on county metro status. More importantly, the explicit distance indicators offer the opportunity to identify and differentiate rural schools and school systems in relatively remote areas, from those that may be located just outside an urban core.

Supplemental ZIP locale assignment: A final advantage of the newframework is the provision of ZIP code locales to supplement missing school assignments. Unlike the previous CCD supplemental assignment process that relies on place-matching and basic ZIP urban/rural conditions to supplement locales, the new framework directly assigns the full set of locales and subtypes to ZIP code areas based on the same process used for district locale assignments. 

Commissioner Mark Schneider's Presentation to the Secretary of Education's Rural Education Task Force

Metro- and Urban-Centric Locale Code Categories: Definitions and Comparison

Previous Metro-Centric Locale Codes

1 - Large City:
A central city of a CMSA or MSA, with the city having a population greater than or equal to 250,000.
2 - Mid-size City:
A central city of a CMSA or MSA, with the city having a population less than 250,000.
3 - Urban Fringe of a Large City:
Any territory within a CMSA or MSA of a Large City and defined as urban by the Census Bureau.
4 - Urban Fringe of a Mid-size City:
Any territory within a CMSA or MSA of a Mid-size City and defined as urban by the Census Bureau.
5 - Large Town:
An incorporated place or Census-designated place with a population greater than or equal to 25,000 and located outside a CMSA or MSA.
6 - Small Town:
An incorporated place or Census-designated place with a population less than 25,000 and greater than or equal to 2,500 and located outside a CMSA or MSA.
7 - Rural, Outside MSA:
Any territory designated as rural by the Census Bureau that is outside a CMSA or MSA of a Large or Mid-size City.
8 - Rural, Inside MSA:
Any territory designated as rural by the Census Bureau that is within a CMSA or MSA of a Large or Mid-size City.

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New Urban-Centric Locale Codes

11 - City, Large:
Territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with population of 250,000 or more.
12 - City, Midsize:
Territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with population less than 250,000 and greater than or equal to 100,000.
13 - City, Small:
Territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with population less than 100,000.
21 - Suburb, Large:
Territory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with population of 250,000 or more.
22 - Suburb, Midsize:
Territory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with population less than 250,000 and greater than or equal to 100,000.
23 - Suburb, Small:
Territory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with population less than 100,000.
31 - Town, Fringe:
Territory inside an urban cluster that is less than or equal to 10 miles from an urbanized area.
32 - Town, Distant:
Territory inside an urban cluster that is more than 10 miles and less than or equal to 35 miles from an urbanized area.
33 - Town, Remote:
Territory inside an urban cluster that is more than 35 miles from an urbanized area.
41 - Rural, Fringe:
Census-defined rural territory that is less than or equal to 5 miles from an urbanized area, as well as rural territory that is less than or equal to 2.5 miles from an urban cluster.
42 - Rural, Distant:
Census-defined rural territory that is more than 5 miles but less than or equal to 25 miles from an urbanized area, as well as rural territory that is more than 2.5 miles but less than or equal to 10 miles from an urban cluster.
43 - Rural, Remote:
Census-defined rural territory that is more than 25 miles from an urbanized area and is also more than 10 miles from an urban cluster.


Corresponding Categories

Metro-centric

Urban-centric

City

1, 2

11, 12, 13

Suburb

3, 4

21, 22, 23

Town

5, 6

31, 32, 33

Rural

7, 8

41, 42, 43

Definitions

Census-designated place – an unincorporated community (i.e., without legal boundaries) for which locale officials provide boundaries for the purpose of Census tabulations. CMSA – an area that meets the requirement to qualify as a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and that has a population of 1,000,000 or more, and the components of which are large urbanized counties or a cluster of such counties (cities and towns in New England) that have substantial commuting interchange.

MSA – one or more contiguous counties that have a core area with a large population nucleus and adjacent communities that are highly integrated by economics or socially) with the core.

Principal city – primary population and economic center of an MSA.

Urbanized areas and clusters – densely settled cores of census blocks with adjacent densely settled surrounding areas. When the core contains a population of 50,000 or more it is designated as an urbanized area.  Core areas with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 are classified as urban clusters.

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State Maps: Changes in School District Rural Locale Status


Alabama
Map PDF File (1 MB)
Alaska
Map PDF File (849 KB)
Arkansas
Map PDF File (1.2 MB)
California
Map PDF File (710 KB)
Colorado
Map PDF File (512 KB)
Connecticut
Map PDF File (369 KB)
Delaware
Map PDF File (81 KB)
Florida
Map PDF File (811 KB)
Georgia
Map PDF File (1.1 MB)
Hawaii
Map PDF File (104 KB)
Idaho
Map PDF File (706 KB)
Iowa
Map PDF File (1.4 MB)
Illinois
Map PDF File (1.2 MB)
Indiana
Map PDF File (1 MB)
Kansas
Map PDF File (1.1 MB)
Kentucky
Map PDF File (1.8 MB)
Louisiana
Map PDF File (844 KB)
Massachusetts
Map PDF File (712 KB)
Maryland
Map PDF File (1.6 MB)
Maine
Map PDF File (439 KB)
Michigan
Map PDF File (1.4 KB)
Minnesota
Map PDF File (1.1 MB)
Missouri
Map PDF File (1.9 MB)
Mississippi
Map PDF File (868 KB)
Montana
Map PDF File (852 MB)
North Carolina
Map PDF File (1.9 MB)
North Dakota
Map PDF File (693 KB)
Nebraska
Map PDF File (1.5 MB)
New Hampshire
Map PDF File (459 KB)
New Jersey
Map PDF File (812 KB)
New Mexico
Map PDF File (617 KB)
Nevada
Map PDF File (439 KB)
New York
Map PDF File (1.6 MB)
Ohio
Map PDF File (1 MB)
Oklahoma
Map PDF File (1.5 MB)
Oregon
Map PDF File (651 KB)
Pennsylvania
Map PDF File (1.5 MB)
Rhode Island
Map PDF File (174 KB)
South Carolina
Map PDF File (1.2 MB)
South Dakota
Map PDF File (1.1 MB)
Tennessee
Map PDF File (2.2 MB)
Texas
Map PDF File (2.1 MB)
Utah
Map PDF File (285 KB)
Virginia
Map PDF File (2.4 MB)
Vermont
Map PDF File (487 KB)
Washington
Map PDF File (635 KB)
Wisconsin
Map PDF File (85 KB)
West Virginia
Map PDF File (1.7 MB)
Wyoming
Map PDF File (699 KB)

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Data Tables


Table 1

Number of rural school districts identified by metro-centric and urban-centric locale code systems: School year 2003-04

Table 2

Number of rural schools identified by metro-centric and urban-centric locale code systems: School year 2003-04

Table 3

Number of students in schools in rural districts identified by metro-centric and urban-centric locale code systems: School year 2003-04

Table 4

Number of Black, non-Hispanic students in schools in rural districts identified by metro-centric and urban-centric locale code systems: School year 2003-04

Table 5

Number of Hispanic students in schools in rural districts identified by metro-centric and urban-centric locale code systems: School year 2003-04

Table 6

Number of White, non-Hispanic students in schools in rural districts identified by metro-centric and urban-centric locale code systems: School year 2003-04

Table 7

Number of free lunch or reduced-price lunch eligible students in schools in rural districts identified by metro-centric and urban-centric locale code systems: School year 2003-04

Go to Public Elementary/Secondary School Locale Code Files.

Go to Local Education Agency (School District) Locale Code Files.

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