|Census tracts in nonmetropolitan counties, categorized (Urban Institute map; click on the image to enlarge it)|
Most data analyses of rural areas rely on county-level data, which "can fall short in describing rural realities," so the new typology uses census tracts "that may have different assets and strengths than what overall county data might show," Corianne Scally, the lead researcher, told The Daily Yonder. "Our typology compares rural areas to one another and leaves out urban ones. This allows diverse rural realities to stand out more clearly."
Scally told Yonder Editor Tim Marema, "Even if we could perfectly capture the spirit of the framework nationally with numbers, they don’t provide the needed nuanced context of local histories and capacities someone would need to make well-informed decisions on investments and supports." Marema writes, "The new typology defines different groups of rural communities based on a wide range of physical, financial, environmental, and social assets. The hope is that the assets-based analysis will guide how public and private institutions can invest most effectively in rural communities." Essentially, the new system superimposes Purdue University's Community Capitals Framework divisions onto census tracts in nonmetropolitan counties (based on the U.S. Agriculture Department's rural-urban continuum).