Defining urban and rural areas: new tool enables more effective analysis of different, but similar, spatial concepts

A new report titled “A harmonised definition of cities and rural areas: the new degree of urbanization” discusses the new degree of urbanisation (DEGURBA) classification. This classification differentiates between three area types: densely, intermediate and thinly populated. This approach, based on the population grid as a new source of information, creates the opportunity to reorganise and harmonise a number of different, but similar, spatial concepts. The report describes the development of the methodology regarding the degree of urbanisation and it contains several recommendations.

Urban and rural classifications are two central concepts used widely by policy makers, researchers and practitioners. Although these terms are easily understood by the general public, their definition at international level is elusive. Additionally, the problem with the original degree of urbanisation is that it relies predominantly on the population size. Moreover, due to the different characteristics of urban and rural areas around the world, it is difficult to find comprehensive data for these areas. Therefore, the new degree of urbanisation classification attempts to solve the problems of data availability and lack of shared definition. In the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the new classification provides access to data from a wide range of surveys, including labour force survey and the survey on income and living conditions. It also introduces new harmonised urban-rural spatial concepts as developed closely with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).