definition of a rural community
What is the definition of
a rural community

The definition of a rural community is not simple or straight forward. We have to understand both a definition of rural and one of the community.  Is it simply a group of people who live in the same area of the countryside? Or does it mean far more than that? Is there a deeper psychological or sociological theme that makes someone part of a rural community?

This article is intended to help you make your own mind up about the definition of a rural community by guiding you through some of the information. Hopefully allowing you to develop a deeper understanding of what a rural community is.


  1. What Is Rural
  2. Defining  Community
  3. Rural Community
  4. Your Community
  5. Community Needs
  6. Conclusion
  7. 5 Recommended books from Amazon
What is Rural-The Definition Of A Rural Community
What is Rural?

What Is Rural

Rural has a slightly different meaning for different people. Fields and farmland, rivers and woods, or a village in the mountains can be classed as rural. In the article How do I know if I live in a Rural Area we briefly examine what defines rural.

The US Census Bureau and the UK  Rural-Urban Classification both have very distinct classifications for what a rural area is. These classifications are based on population density or size. The US using population per square mile and the UK relying on total population size. This leads to very varied results across the globe as to what is or is not a rural area.

Degree of Urbanisation

On March 5th, 2020 the UN Statistical Commission endorsed the degree of urbanization. This is a new method for international comparisons of both rural and urban areas. This is a wordy 33-page document that aims to simplify the method for categorizing an area as rural or urban.  As stated in How do we define cities, towns, and rural areas?

Many countries use a minimum population size to define an urban area, but that size can be 200 (as in Denmark), 2,000 (Argentina), 5,000 (India) or 50,000 (Japan) or even 100,000 (China). 


This new method of classification is an attempt to ensure that this huge amount of difference across the globe is unified into a more manageable and comparable method.

Three Classifications

This new method uses three classifications to define a population density. 

  1. cities or densely populated areas
  2. towns & semi-dense areas or intermediate density areas
  3. rural areas or thinly populated areas

This is The Degree of Urbanisation level 1. These population densities are calculated using a 1 km² population grid. Each grid cell is assigned by the following:

  • An urban center (or a high-density cluster) consists of contiguous grid cells with a density of at least 1,500 inhabitants per km2. 
  • An urban cluster (or moderate density clusters) consists of contiguous grid cells with a density of at least 300 inhabitants per km2 and has a population of at least 5,000 in the cluster. 
  • Rural grid cells (mostly low-density cells) are cells that do not belong to an urban cluster. Most of these will have a density below 300 inhabitants per km2. Some rural cells will have a higher 

This data then creates local unit based on the following

  1. Cities (or densely populated areas): local units that have at least 50% of their population in urban centers 
  2. Towns and semi-dense areas (or intermediate density areas): local units that have less than 50% of their population in urban centers and less than 50% of their population in rural grid cells 
  3. Rural areas (or thinly populated areas): local units that have at least 50% of their population in rural grid cells

Simplify Rural.

The Degree of urbanization level 2 breaks this down into something far more usable.

The following table taken from the report is far easier to understand and use in defining an area as rural or urban. Note how they took the classifications from level 1 and further defined some for ease.

classifying a rural area
Classifying a rural area

So now a  rural area can be defined as a settlement or cluster of cells with a population of less than 5000 and a density of less than 300 per 1 km2. This also allows for towns in rural areas to have a different classification to the surrounding rural area.

Defining  Community

The next step in the definition of a rural community is to define what community is. This can be a very personal concept. You can define communities by classifying them with one of 5 purposes.

  1. Interest. Communities of people who share the same interest or passion.
  2. Action. Communities of people trying to bring about change.
  3. Place. Communities of people brought together by geographic boundaries.
  4. Communities of people in the same profession or undertake the same activities.
  5. Circumstance. Communities of people brought together by external events/situations.

Does this alone define a community or is there more to it?


Living in a rural area according to the above classification defines you are part of a community due to geographical boundaries. While this may be true could it also be another reason also?

A permaculture community for example may be a community due to interest, action, place, and undertaking the same activities. Place alone may not be enough.


We often hear the phrase ‘community spirit’ and define it as that feeling of being involved and part of something. A community can be very much like a large sports team. Each member supporting those around them. In a community this could be as simple as grocery shopping for a neighbor with a broken leg.

Community spirit is about your neighbors becoming almost an extended family. A network of support and friendship that can be relied upon for many things.

Defined Community

The Definition Of A Rural Community has to take the community part as being not only the locational community but also that sense of spirit. Many urban areas have huge communities yet there are often very little interactions between its members.

Does that still make them communities or simply people living in close proximity? Community has to mean more than that it has to define an identity and a sense of belonging to a group of people or even as far as calling it a tribe.

community-The Definition Of A Rural Community

Rural Community 

We can state that the definition of a rural community is a combination of:

  • The location and its population density

combined with 

  • A sense of belonging and togetherness 

We cannot let the area alone define our community, regardless of where we live we can build a network of neighbors we can rely on for friendship and support. This seems to be a far more natural and easy endeavor in a rural area.

Perhaps the pace of life and a closer connection to nature lends itself to people being more open with each other. 

What can each of us do to improve our community and build stronger ties with those around us?

Your Community

What is your community? Is there already an established community in your area? The first step in becoming part of a community is finding out if there is one. This forces you to talk to people and get to know your neighbors.

If you have just moved to a new area or have lived in an area for a while, you can speak to the local residents to find out what types of community activities are happening where you are. There may be local community clubs or events already planned that you can attend. Social events are a great method for becoming part of a community

Be A Host

Offer to host the next social event for your community or if no events exist plan and host the first one. You can develop a group of people to help and support you in this and start a community action group that is directed towards bringing the community together, if one does not exist.

Weekend events that are child friendly are a good starting idea to develop from.

Just Be Helpful

Courtesy, manners and general helpfulness are far more important than many people realise. Helping a neighbour carry shopping in, is a simple act that can be the start of a community connection. The large grandiose actions can often make neighbours develop hostility towards others.

Many small acts of kindness let neighbors see that the hosting of a community event is not just an act of showing off. But a continuation of trying to build a community.


If you are trying to build a community, then talk to your neighbors. Explaining what you are trying to achieve will give others the opportunity to join in and be a part of it from the beginning.

We all want to belong to something, and giving people the opportunity at the start allows them to also have a feeling of ownership.

The Definition Of A Rural Community
Belonging is a large part of
what defines a community

Community needs

People have very simple needs when it comes to community.

  • They have to identify with the community in some way
  • There must be a sense of value attached to the community
  • Participation is easy and defined
  • An obvious reward is available


Regardless of if a community is a neighbourhood one or an activity-based one such as for a sport or hobby, members have to identify in some way. This identity has to be strong to make them feel like they are part of the community and that they belong.

People who live in the neighborhood and want to help and support each other is a stronger identity than simple people who live in the neighborhood. 


A community requires time. People who are going to put time into a community need to know the value of that time. They need to know that other people value both the time offered and the person offering it.

Part of the feeling of belonging is tied to having a sense of worth and feeling valued. Simple thanks can be enough for most people to feel both valued and connected to something.


Knowing how to participate in something is crucial to developing a willingness to take part. Complicated rules and regulations are detrimental to building a sense of community spirit as are understated rules.

We would like to invite you to our social defines no rules. Whereas we are inviting you to our social to talk to and get to know your neighbors defines a simple expected participation. stating that they should talk to at least 5 neighbors would be adding too many rules.


Being part of a community has to benefit the members in some tangible way. A thank you for helping is one type of potential reward, free food at a social gathering another. Other rewards could come in the form of shared knowledge or skills, help to carry out tasks and support when ill or in need of help. 

Being part of a community is not only about receiving all of these but also about providing all of these to other members of your community, this is how you build that spirit and define your community in a worthwhile manner.


The definition of a rural community is complicated. The facts and figures of population density have to be tempered by a sense of belonging provided by those in the community. you can define what rural means and what community means but you cannot define what that actual community is.

A helpful neighbor, or a gathering of friends both can be a community. The identity you place on those interactions is what ultimately defines it as a community. Rural community is perhaps more of a mindset than just simply living in a sparsely populated area

5 Recommended books from Amazon

  1. The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology
  2. Going Off the Grid: The How-To-Book of Simple Living and Happiness
  3. The Mini Farming Bible: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre
  4. Start Your Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st Century Farmer
  5. Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests

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