NC in Focus: When did we transition to majority urban?

1920 marked the first year that more U.S. residents lived in urban areas than rural areas (51% vs. 49%). In North Carolina, this transition did not occur until 1990, when 50.4% of state residents were living in urban areas compared to 49.6% living in rural areas. In 1990, only South Dakota (50%), Mississippi (47%), Maine (45%), West Virginia (36%), and Vermont (32%) had smaller shares of their population living in urban areas. Globally, 2010 marked the first time the majority of the world’s population was living in urban areas (52%).

Urban Percentage of the Population for NC_US_World

Urban Area Definition

The Census Bureau identifies two types of urban areas:

  • Urbanized areasof 50,000 or more people
  • Urban clustersof at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people

Nationwide, there are 486 urbanized areas and 3,087 urban clusters. The population classified as urban includes all individuals living in urbanized areas and urban clusters.

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center.
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