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Communities

The Impact of Classifications

Classifications provide a means to easily and concisely communicate a lot of information in a brief way, by focusing on similarities between items. When studying rural places, classifications often highlight an area's social or economic characteristics, providing information and data to policy makers, public officials, concerned citizens, and researchers. A major source of classification data that applies to rural areas is provided by the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. Classifications developed by the ERS include ones that focus on an area's economic and social characteristics, and geographic context. These characteristics and context play an important roles in an area's development.

Of course, classifying something is not an easy process, and the resulting classification scheme is not without drawbacks. The very act of classifying things means drawing a line between two groups of objects - farming-dependant and non-farming-dependant counties, for example. This dividing line, while informed through research and analysis, is still ultimately a judgement call. Although there's often room for debate as to the extent to which any one classification captures the true nature of what is represented in the title, they still provide a useful lens with which to compare and analyze features of rural areas.

Developing and Using a New Classification Scheme

Excerpted from: McGranahan, David and Timothy Wojan. 2007. The Creative Class: A Key To Rural Growth. Amber Waves 5(2) 16-21.

Many economists and geographers point to high-tech firms, research and development (R&D) activity, and patents as sources of new economic growth, but regional scientist Richard Florida focuses on people, arguing that the knowledge and ideas requisite for economic growth are embodied in occupations involving high levels of creativity. These occupations constitute the 'creative class,' the ultimate source of economic dynamism in today's 'knowledge economy.'

Rainbow Source: Microsoft Office Online Clipart

Rainbow Source: Microsoft Office Online Clipart

The geographic mobility of the creative class is central to Florida's thesis. He argues that people in these occupations tend to seek a high quality of life as well as rewarding work, and they are drawn to cities with cultural diversity, active street scenes, and outdoor recreation opportunities. Good local universities alone will not lead to local economic dynamism as graduates may move to more attractive places upon obtaining their degrees. In this context, the key to local growth is to attract and retain talent, as talent leads to further job creation...

ERS analysts refined the [Florida] creative class measure in two ways. First, they used O*NET, a Bureau of Labor Statistics data set on skills generally used in occupations, to identify occupations in Florida's list that typically involve 'thinking creatively.' This skill element is defined as 'developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.'

Second, the analysts screened out as many occupations as possible that typically require high levels of creativity (such as schoolteachers, judges, and medical doctors) but whose numbers are proportional to the residential population they serve. These refinements resulted in an estimated creative class share of the workforce of 21 percent in 1990 (23 percent in metro areas and 14 percent in nonmetro areas)...

In 2000 (as in 1990), about 260 or 11 percent of nonmetro counties ranked as creative-class counties. Regional differences are more pronounced than with metro creative-class counties; New England and the mountain areas of the West have higher shares of rural creative-class-counties than the Midwest and South. Consistent with the thesis that quality-of-life considerations strongly motivate the creative class, counties high in natural amenities are most likely to be creative-class magnets...

The creative class was highly associated with growth in rural areas in 1990-2004. Other nonmetro counties grew relatively slowly in the 1990s, but creative-class nonmetro counties tended to gain jobs over the period at a faster rate than their metro counterparts...

While rural creative-class counties may grow because of the presence of the creative class, it is possible that the amenities that attracted the creative class were responsible for the higher job growth in creative-class counties in the 1990s. However, whether considering high-amenity, recreation, high-education, or other attributes, counties with a high proportion of creative-class residents generally had job growth rates that were twice as high as counties with less creative class presence.

Explore on Your Own!

What kind of county do you live in? Do you think of it as metropolitan or non-metropolitan? Do you think it qualifies as a 'creative class' county? What about housing stress - is that a problem? What other characteristics about your county might these classifications suggest?

Launch the Oregon Communities Reporter Tool

Launch the Advanced Mapping Tool to map metropolitan status by county, for 2000

Links to additional sources of information about classifications

2013 USDA (US Department of Agriculture) Urban Influence Codes:

https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/urban-influence-codes.aspx

2013 USDA Rural-Urban Continuum Codes, which distinguishes metropolitan counties by the population size of their metro area, and nonmetropolitan counties by degree of urbanization and adjacency to a metro area.:

https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/rural-urban-continuum-codes.aspx

Glossary of Classification Related Terms

You can use the Oregon Communities Reporter and Advanced Mapping Tool to explore social and economic classifications of a county by using the following variables:

  • Urban Influence Codes: Describe proximity to major urban centers. As of 2003 the codes used are:
    • 1 Large-in a metro area with at least 1 million residents or more
    • 2 Small-in a metro area with fewer than 1 million residents
    • 3 Micropolitan area adjacent to a large metro area
    • 4 Noncore adjacent to a large metro area
    • 5 Micropolitan area adjacent to a small metro area
    • 6 Noncore adjacent to a small metro area with town of at least 2,500 residents
    • 7 Noncore adjacent to a small metro area and does not contain a town of at least 2,500 residents
    • 8 Micropolitan area not adjacent to a metro area
    • 9 Noncore adjacent to micro area and contains a town of at least 2,500 residents
    • 10 Noncore adjacent to micro area and does not contain a town of at least 2,500 residents
    • 11 Noncore not adjacent to a metro/micro area and contains a town of 2,500 or more residents
    • 12 Noncore not adjacent to a metro/micro area and does not contain a town of at least 2,500 residents
  • For 1993-2002, the following codes were used:
    • 1 Large-in a metro area with at least 1 million residents or more
    • 2 Small-in a metro area with fewer than 1 million residents
    • 3 Adjacent to a large metro area and contains a city of at least 10,000 residents
    • 4 Adjacent to a large metro area and does not have a city of at least 10,000 residents
    • 5 Adjacent to a small metro area and contains a city of at least 10,000 residents
    • 6 Adjacent to a small metro area and does not have a city of at least 10,000 residents
    • 7 Not adjacent to a metro area and contains a city of at least 10,000 residents
    • 8 Not adjacent to a metro area and contains a town of 2,500- 9,999 residents
    • 9 Not adjacent to a metro area and does not contain a town of at least 2,500 residents
    Source: Economic Research Service, USDA
  • Economic Type Codes

    One of six mutually exclusive economic categories developed by the US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (only 5 apply in Oregon):

    • Farming-dependent: either 15 percent or more of average annual labor and proprietors' earnings derived from farming during 1998-2000 or 15 percent or more of employed residents worked in farm occupations in 2000.
    • Manufacturing-dependent: 25 percent or more of average annual labor and proprietors' earnings derived from manufacturing during 1998-2000.
    • Federal/State government-dependent: 15 percent or more of average annual labor and proprietors' earnings derived from Federal and State government during 1998-2000.
    • Services-dependent: 45 percent or more of average annual labor and proprietors' earnings derived from services (SIC categories of retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; and services) during 1998-2000.
    • Nonspecialized: did not meet the dependence threshold for any one of the above industries.
    Source: Economic Research Service, USDA.
  • Policy Type Codes

    When listed, the county falls into one or more of these non-mutually exclusive designations developed by the US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service:

    • Housing stress: 30 percent or more of households had one or more of these housing conditions in 2000: lacked complete plumbing, lacked complete kitchen, paid 30 percent or more of income for owner costs or rent, or had more than 1 person per room.
    • Low-education: 25 percent or more of residents 25-64 years old had neither a high school diploma nor GED in 2000.
    • Low-employment: less than 65 percent of residents 21-64 years old were employed in 2000.
    • Nonmetro recreation: classified using a combination of factors, including share of employment or share of earnings in recreation-related industries in 1999, share of seasonal or occasional use housing units in 2000, and per capita receipts from motels and hotels in 1997.
    • Retirement destination: number of residents 60 and older grew by 15 percent or more between 1990 and 2000 due to inmigration.
    Source: Economic Research Service, USDA.
  • Creative Class County: Creative Class County: if yes, this county scored in the top quarter nationwide for creative class employment rates. Creative Class employment is in occupations that involve a high level of "thinking creatively." This skill element is defined as "developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions." Source: Economic Research Service, USDA

  • Metropolitan Status: A metro area, as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, includes one or more counties containing a core urban area of 50,000 or more people, together with any adjacent counties that have a high degree of social and economic integration (as measured by commuting to work) with the urban core. OMB also defines micropolitan statistical areas using the same method but centered around urban areas with at least 10,000 but no more than 50,000 people. 2004 designation used for 2005. Source: Economic Research Service, USDA

Sources

McGranahan, David and Timothy Wojan. 2007. The Creative Class: A Key To Rural Growth. Amber Waves 5(2) 16-21.

Authored and compiled by Mindy Crandall, Faculty Research Assistant, Oregon State University Extension Service (2008)