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What is a Place?

As of 2007 there were over 700 named places in Oregon. Some of these places are small and some of them are large, some have a charter (therefore are incorporated places) and some are recognized by the county and state as places, but do not have their own charter or government (these are called unincorporated places). All of these places have differences and similarities that you can examine in the Oregon Rural Communities Explorer Portal.

So how does the Rural Communities Explorer define the geographic boundaries of all of these 723 places, especially when they arent all incorporated cities? The geographic boundaries of a specific place or group of places in the Rural Communities Explorer correspond to one of two things:

  1. The city limits, the incorporated town limits, or the unincorporated town limits as delineated by local and state officials along with the U.S. Census Bureau.

  2. In the year 2000 there were 309 of these types of places in Oregon. Well call these Census Designated Places.

  3. The census tract boundaries in which unincorporated towns and villages that are not recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau are located.

  4. In the year 2000 there were 414 of these types of places in Oregon. Well call these Unofficial and Unincorporated Places.

Please note that often a small town or village is located in the same census tract as other towns or villages, therefore they will share the same data.

Culver Highway, Jefferson County: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

Culver Highway, Jefferson County:
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

Think about the town or city nearest to the one you live in. You probably think your town is different than the one nearby. What is it about the two places that is different? Why are they different? If you were a bird flying over the state would you be able to notice how the two places were different and what made them special? It would be hard to identify the differences and similarities across specific places or even find out about a particular place unless you actually flew down into the place. Sometimes a birds eye view is just the amount of information you need to get an understanding of a community, but other times it may be more important to get specific information about a particular place. People who work in or serve a specific town or a city often wonder how that particular place is changing or what the issues there are; having the specific information about the town is important for them as they make decisions.

You can use the Rural Communities Explorer tools listed below to examine how and if the specific place you are interested in has been changing, what types of people live there, what some aspects of the natural environment look like, what state the economy is in, what stories people have shared about the place, and even find research that may have been done on the community.

You can also use the Rural Communities Explorer Reporter Tool listed below to examine how and if a few places youre interested in have different kinds of people living in them, face different economic circumstances, and exist in different natural environments. Dont miss the combine function to generate statistics for a region or group of places you are interested in!

Use the Oregon Communities Reporter Tool to explore the social, economic, and environmental attributes of the community or communities that interest you.

Use Scholar's Archive to explore the digitally-archived research, maps, stories, photographs, databases, and more that have been gathered about the rural Oregon communities that interest you.

How Do Communities Work?

Community Model

Community Model

Learn more about what a community is and how various attributes or characteristics of communities interact by exploring the Community Model.

Learn about the Community Model
See an example of how the Community Model is used

Authored by Lena Etuk, Social Demographer, Oregon State University Extension Service (2008)