In Chapter 2, “Urbanization and Population Redistribution,” we discuss how urbanization is conceptualized and measured. We discuss the different ways in which rural is understood and the various ways it is measured, including metropolitan vs. nonmetropolitan classifications. This chapter restates that in almost all statistical systems, rurality is treated as a residual, or the territory left over after urban areas have been classified. This chapter also examines the causes of urban population concentration, ranging from natural increase to advancements in technology. By examining the forces responsible for its increase in both developed and developing societies, we seek to illustrate the uneven nature of urbanization and the conditions under which counter-urbanization may occur.
1. The text notes that in nearly all statistical systems used for classifying urban and rural places, rural is treated as a residual category—the territory remaining once all urban and peri-urban places have been measured. What are the implications of this for understanding rural paces and for interpreting statistical data related to rural people and communities?
2. The abundance of measures to determine rural and urban areas can get very confusing, even for those who are well-versed in rural studies. Why is there a need for so many different approaches to classifying urban and rural places? Might it make sense to develop one over-arching measurement approach? What might be some of the arguments for and against a single definition to classify rural and urban places?
3. Counter-urbanization, or rural turnaround, is the process by which rural areas grow faster than urban areas, in a reversal of urbanization trends. The reasons for counter-urbanization have been complex, and in the U.S., counter-urbanization has occurred in different ways in the 1970s and early 1990s. Looking into the future, might we expect unforeseen or unprecedented events and processes that might affect the likelihood of counter-urbanization, or alternately make counter-urbanization less likely (e.g., climate change, technological advances, changes in telecommunications, fossil fuel shortages, etc.)?
4. Hope Tisdale (1942)* defined urbanization demographically as an increase in the number of places exceeding an urban population size threshold, and the continued growth of such places. How else might one determine if urbanization is occurring in a nation, state, and/or community?
*Tisdale, H. 1942. The Process of Urbanization. Social Forces, 20, 311-316.
1. Representations in Works of Art. The purpose of this exercise is to identify urban and rural themes in works of art. How are rural and urban themes represented? Split the class into small groups. Take the class to a campus museum. If there is not a museum, go to website of a major art museum. Walk through the museum together for 10-15 minutes so that students can get the lay of the land. Then, student groups should circulate on their own. Each group should identify one work that is shaped by an urban theme and one work by a rural theme. Encourage students not to restrict choice to representational pieces, or to paintings, drawings, and so forth. Sculpture, non-representational pieces, performance art are all acceptable. Emphasize that this is interpretative; there is no “right” or “wrong.” What matters is what they see in the respective works. Each group should prepare a 1-page brief describing the rural and/or urban themes they see in the works and their logic in making these observations. Include the respective work’s artist, date made, location in the museum or website, and a photo of the piece, if allowed. In the next class, each group should present their report and engage in discussion. Note that a variant of this exercise is proposed in the supplemental materials for Chapter 4 (Understanding Community in Rural Society).
2. Census Data Extraction & Analysis [Part I]. The ways in which rural places are classified matters for understanding phenomena like urbanization. Using U.S. Census data, determine the total percentage of the population living in the nonmetropolitan U.S. in 2000 and 2010. What does data suggest about urbanization in the U.S. during this time period? Now look at the total percentage of the population living in the rural U.S. in 2000 and 2010. To what extent do these different classifications lead to different interpretations of urbanization in the U.S.?
We suggest that you record these data in a table similar to the one here.
As shown in your analysis, a large percentage of the rural population is located in metropolitan counties and conversely a substantial share of the urban population is located in nonmetropolitan counties. What do you think these places are like? What do you think people do to make a living in urban-nonmetro or rural-metro places?
To determine total, rural only, urban only, metropolitan, and nonmetropolitan populations in the U.S. for 2000 and 2010, follow the steps below:
2. Census Data Extraction & Analysis [Part II]. Pick two states to compare. One should be relatively urban-centric and one should be relatively rural in its settlement structure. Based on the 2000 and 2010 data, how have urbanization processes differed across the two states? How do these state-level data compare to the national level figures? Based on the readings from the chapter, how can we understand what might be happening in these spaces?
Depending on your needs, you may want a comparison table similar to the one here.
3. Census Data Extraction & Analysis [Part III]. Using the same two state comparison above, examine the landmass that is urban and that is metropolitan. Download the maps as PDFs. What do you observe?
For all Census Data Extraction activities, supplement the data analyses outlined above using the most recent American Community Survey (ACS) estimates. If you have worked through the exercises to this point, you should be able to figure out how to extract these most recent ACS data.
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