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Rural and Urban Children

Narrative

Urban and rural children differ in their demographic characteristics, which, in combination with geographic factors, can affect their health and access to health care. For instance, children living in rural areas are more vulnerable to death from injuries,1 are more likely to use tobacco and other substances,2,3 and are more likely to be obese than their urban counterparts.4 Rural families may also not have the same access to health care because health services are not always located nearby.5 Understanding these potential risks can provide program planners and policymakers information that can be used to design and target services.

In 2007, 81.7 percent of children lived in urban areas, while about 9 percent lived in large and small/isolated rural areas, respectively (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). These areas were classified based on ZIP code, the size of the city or town, and the commuting pattern in the area. Urban areas include metropolitan areas and surrounding towns, large rural areas include towns with populations of 10,000 to 49,999 persons and their surrounding areas, and small/isolated rural areas include towns with populations of 2,500 to 9,999 persons and their surrounding areas.

The demographic distribution of the population of children in small and large rural areas differs from that of urban children in terms of both race/ethnicity and family income. Among urban children, 53.0 percent were White, compared to 67.1 percent of children in large rural areas and 73.8 percent of those in small rural areas. Children living in urban areas were more likely to be Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic than those living in both small and large rural areas. American Indian/Alaska Native children were most likely to reside in small rural areas, where they represent 3.3 percent of the population.

Children in rural areas were more likely than urban children to be living in low-income families. Nearly one-quarter of children in both small and large rural areas had household incomes below the Federal poverty level (FPL), compared to 17.4 percent of urban children. In contrast, nearly one-third of urban children had household incomes of 400 percent of the FPL or more, compared to 17.3 percent of children in large rural areas and 14.1 percent of those in small rural areas.

1 Cherry DC, Huggins B, Gilmore K. Children's health in the rural environment. Pediatric Clinics of North America 54 (2007):121-133

2 Johnston LD, O'Malley PM, Bachman JG, Schulenberg JE. (2009) Monitoring the Future: National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975-2008. (NIH Publication No. 09-7402.) Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse

3 Maine Rural Health Research Center . Research and Policy Brief. Substance Abuse Among Rural Youth: A Little Meth and a Lot of Booze. Accessed: September 9, 2012.

4 South Carolina Rural Health Research Center. Key Facts and Rural Health: Diet, Physical Activity, and Sedentary Behaviors as Risk Factors for Childhood Obesity: An Urban and Rural Comparison. Accessed: September 9, 2012.

5 Probst JC, Laditka SH, Wang J-Y, Johnson AO. Effects of residence and race on burden of travel for care: cross-sectional analysis of the 2001 US National Household Travel Survey. BMC Health Serv Res 2007 Mar 9;7-40

Graphs

This image is described in the Data section.

child indicators by location graph

This image is described in the Data section.

child indicators by location graph

Data

Race/Ethnicity Among Children, by Location, 2007
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Children
Urban Large Rural Small/Isolated Rural
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Survey of Children's Health. The Health and Well-Being of Children in Rural Areas: A Portrait of the Nation 2007 Accessed: 9/4/2012.
Non-Hispanic White 53 67.1 73.8
Non-Hispanic Black 15.3 9.8 9.1
Hispanic 22.3 15.5 9.4
American Indian/Alaskan Native 0.5 1.6 3.5
Multiracial 4.4 4.8 3.5
Other 4.6 1.3 1
Poverty Among Children, by Location, 2007
Poverty Level Percent of Children
Urban Large Rural Small/Isolated Rural
*Federal poverty level was $20,650 for a family of four in 2007
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Survey of Children's Health. The Health and Well-Being of Children in Rural Areas: A Portrait of the Nation 2007. September 2011. Accessed: 9/4/2012.
< 100% Federal Poverty Level 17.4 23.7 23.4
100-199% Federal Poverty Level 19.8 25.2 29.1
200-399% Federal Poverty Level 30.5 33.9 33.5
400% or > Federal Poverty Level 32.4 17.3 14.1