Sparsely populated areas with restricted access to urban centers (Farmer, 2008; Housing Assistance Council, 2002; USDA Economic Research Service, 2004). The U.S. Census Bureau defines the term narrowly as “territory, population, and housing units” that are not urban, meaning they are in open territory or have “fewer than 2,500 inhabitants” (U.S. Census, 1994, p. 12-1). In academic literature, the term is often used interchangeably with “nonmetropolitan” or “nonmetro.”
In addition to its link to population size and density, the term is widely used to reflect social, cultural, and economic characteristics, including simple division of labor, higher degree of consensus, less racial and ethnic diversity, reliance on informal social controls, distrust of government and outsiders, and a predominance of face-to-face social relations (Farmer, 2008; Websdale & Johnson, 1998).

Farmer, F. L. (2008). Rural, definitions of. In G. Goreham (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Rural America:  The land and people (pp. 833-35). Millerton, NY: Grey House Publishing. Housing Assistance Council. (2002). Taking stock: Rural people, poverty and housing at the turn of the 21st century. Washington, DC: Housing Assistance Council. U.S. Census Bureau. (1994). Geographic areas reference manual. Retrieved September 18, 2008, from USDA Economic Research Service. (2004). Measuring rurality: Rural-urban continuum codes. Retrieved September 10, 2008, from Websdale, N., & Johnson, B. (1998). An ethnostatistical comparison of the forms of woman battering in urban and rural areas of Kentucky. Criminal Justice Review, 23, 161-196