A rural area is an open swath of land that has few homes or other buildings, and not very many people.

A rural areas population density is very low. Many people live in a city, or urban area. Their homes and businesses are located very close to one another. In a rural area, there are fewer people, and their homes and businesses are located far away from one another.

Agriculture is the primary industry in most rural areas. Most people live or work on farms or ranches. Hamlets, villages, towns, and other small settlements are in or surrounded by rural areas.

Wildlife is more frequently found in rural areas than in cities because of the absence of people and buildings. In fact, rural areas are often called the country because residents can see and interact with the countrys native wildlife.

Throughout the world, more people live in rural areas than in urban areas. This has been changing rapidly, however. Urbanization is happening all over the world. In Asia, for example, the United Nations estimates that the urban population will increase by almost 2 billion by 2050.

Shift to Cities

People are migrating to urban areas for many reasons, including agricultural technology, industrial technology, and the hope of changing ones economic circumstances.

Agricultural technology has decreased the need for agricultural workers. Improved transportation, tools, fertilizer, and genetically modified crops mean fewer farmworkers harvest more food. This decreased need for farm employment drives many farmworkers into cities in search of jobs.

Industrial technology has created many jobs unique to urban areas. Developing countries often have resource-based economies, meaning most people make their living from agriculture, timber, mining, or other harvesting of natural resources. These natural resources are most often located in rural areas. As developing countries expand the use of industrial technology, they often shift their focus to a service-based economy. Service-based economies use industrial technology to provide finished goods and services to people inside and outside their countries.

India, for instance, is a country where many people practice agriculture in rural areas. As the Indian economy develops, however, more people migrate to urban areas like Bangalore to work in the technology industry. Instead of providing the raw materials (metals) for computer chips to nations like the United States, Indian companies now manufacture the computer chips themselves.

Centers of learning, such as universities, hospitals, and regional government, are usually located in urban areas. Many rural residents travel to cities to take advantage of economic opportunities there.

The cost of living in urban areas is usually much higher than in rural areas. It costs more to rent a house, buy food, and use transportation. For this reason, wages are usually higher in urban areas. The search for higher wages is another reason people migrate from rural areas.

In the United States, rural areas take up about 98 percent of the country but are home to only 25 percent of the population. In Ethiopia, a less-developed country where agricultural jobs are much more common, 87 percent of the people live in rural areas.

rural area
Rural areas have few people and businesses spread out over a large area.

By the Numbers
In the United States, the Census Bureau classifies a rural area as a town with fewer than 1,000 people per 2.6 square kilometers (square mile), and surrounding areas with fewer than 500 people per 2.6 square kilometers (square mile).

absence
Noun

not present, or a total lack of material.

agricultural technology
Noun

the art and science of complex machines used to perform tasks associated with farming and ranching.

Noun

the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

Census Bureau
Noun

government organization responsible for demographic information about the U.S. population, as well as the analyzing of that data.

circumstance
Noun

condition or situation.

city
Noun

large settlement with a high population density.

classify
Verb

to identify or arrange by specific type or characteristic.

computer chip
Noun

small electrical device that determines the capabilities of a computer. Also called an integrated circuit and microchip.

cost of living
Noun

money needed to maintain a style of life, including access to specific goods and services.

decrease
Verb

to lower.

developing world
Noun

nations with low per-capita income, little infrastructure, and a small middle class.

economic
Adjective

having to do with money.

economic opportunity
Noun

situation for a person or group of people to improve their standard of living.

economy
Noun

system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

employment
Noun

job or work.

estimate
Verb

to guess based on knowledge of the situation or object.

farm
Noun

land cultivated for crops, livestock, or both.

farmworker
Noun

person who works on a farm or ranch but does not own the land. Also called a farm hand.

fertilizer
Noun

nutrient-rich chemical substance (natural or manmade) applied to soil to encourage plant growth.

finished good
Noun

item assembled and ready for sale.

frequent
Adjective

often.

genetically modified organism (GMO)
Noun

living thing whose genes (DNA) have been altered for a specific purpose.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

hamlet
Noun

very small village.

hospital
Noun

institution for taking care of sick or injured people.

industrial technology
Noun

the art and science of complex machines used to perform manufacuring tasks.

industry
Noun

activity that produces goods and services.

manufacture
Verb

to make or produce a good, usually for sale.

metal
Noun

category of elements that are usually solid and shiny at room temperature.

migrate
Verb

to move from one place or activity to another.

mining
Noun

process of extracting ore from the Earth.

natural resource
Noun

a material that humans take from the natural environment to survive, to satisfy their needs, or to trade with others.

population density
Noun

the number of people living in a set area, such as a square mile.

primary
Adjective

first or most important.

ranch
Noun

large farm on which livestock are raised.

raw material
Noun

matter that needs to be processed into a product to use or sell.

rent
Noun

payment for use of a piece of property for a certain amount of time, usually a month.

resource-based economy
Noun

a system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services based on development of natural resources. Also called the primary sector.

Noun

regions with low population density and large amounts of undeveloped land. Also called "the country."

service-based economy
Noun

a system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services based on the manufacture of finished goods and providing of services.

settlement
Noun

community or village.

swath
Noun

path or line of material.

technology
Noun

the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

timber
Noun

wood in an unfinished form, either trees or logs.

tool
Noun

instrument used to help in the performance of a task.

town
Noun

human settlement larger than a village and smaller than a city.

transportation
Noun

movement of people or goods from one place to another.

United Nations
Noun

international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.

university
Noun

institution for learning at the highest level.

Noun

developed, densely populated area where most inhabitants have nonagricultural jobs.

urbanization
Noun

process in which there is an increase in the number of people living and working in a city or metropolitan area.

Noun

small human settlement usually found in a rural setting.

wage
Noun

money paid to a person for providing goods or services.

wildlife
Noun

organisms living in a natural environment.