Skip Navigation
Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)

Locale Definitions

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Locale Classifications and Criteria


The NCES locale framework is composed of four basic types (City, Suburban, Town, and Rural) that each contains three subtypes. It relies on standard urban and rural definitions developed by the U.S. Census Bureau, and each type of locale is either urban or rural in its entirety. The NCES locales can be fully collapsed into a basic urban–rural dichotomy or expanded into a more detailed collection of 12 distinct categories. These subtypes are differentiated by size (in the case of City and Suburban assignments) and proximity (in the case of Town and Rural assignments). The NCES classifications and corresponding two-digit locale codes are as follows.


Exhibit A: NCES's urban-centric locale categories

NCES Locale Code NCES Locale Definition
City
11 Large Territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with population of 250,000 or more
12 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 Small Territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with population less than 250,000 and greater than or equal to 100,000
Suburban
21 Large Territory outside a Principal City and inside an Urbanized Area with population of 250,000 or more.
22 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 Small Territory outside a Principal City and inside an Urbanized Area with population less than 100,000.
Town
31 Fringe Territory inside an Urban Cluster that is less than or equal to 10 miles from an Urbanized Area.
32 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 Remote Territory inside an Urban Cluster that is more than 35 miles from an Urbanized Area.
Rural
41 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 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 Remote Census-defined rural territory that is more than 25 miles from an Urbanized Area and also more than 10 miles from an Urban Cluster.

SOURCE: NCES locale classifications and Criteria. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/edge/docs/LOCALE_CLASSIFICATIONS.pdf

For additional information, including the history of NCES locale design and development, see the Locale Boundaries User’s Manual.