What is Rural?

What is Rural? 

The term “rural” is typically used to describe places outside of major urban centres. There are fewer people per square mile in rural areas, and the economy is largely based on agriculture and natural resource extraction. The manner of life and culture in rural areas may be different and they may encounter additional difficulties, such as a lack of public transportation and healthcare facilities. It’s not always easy to pin down what constitutes a “rural” location, but typically it’s one that’s less densely populated and more heavily reliant on agricultural or natural resources.

Rural was first used by the US Census Bureau of the Census in 1874 when it was defined as the population of a county living outside cities or towns with 8,000 or more inhabitants (Whittaker, 1982). That population threshold was changed to 2,500 in 1910 (Ricketts, Johnson-Web & Taylor, 1998).

In India, the term ‘rural’ is defined in terms of revenue for the purpose of government functioning. On population size, for the Indian government, the village means a revenue village. Here it might include one big village or a cluster of small villages. However, for Census Commission, a village is that which is identified by its name having definite boundaries. The Census of India has defined a village as “The basic unit for rural areas is the revenue village which has definite surveyed boundaries. The revenue village may comprise several helmets but the entire village has been treated as one unit for presentation of census data. In unsurveyed areas, like villages within forest areas, each habitation area with locally recognized boundaries within each forest range officer’s beat, was treated as one unit.”

India has a large number of villages. It is because of this that the country is proverbially called as the ‘nation of villages’. According to 2011 census India had ​​6,40,930 villages (Doshi & Jain, 1999, 99-100).



Doshi, S. L., & Jain, P. C. (1999). Rural Sociology. Rawat Publications.

Ricketts, T. C., Johnson-Webb, K. D., & Taylor, P. (1998). Definitions of rural: A handbook for health policy makers and researchers. Office of Rural Health Policy.

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