People who live in rural areas are more likely to own their own homes, live in their state of birth and to have served in the military than their urban counterparts, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

"Rural areas cover 97% of the nation's land area but contain 19.3% of the population (about 60 million people)," Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said. "By combining five years of survey responses, the American Community Survey provides unequaled insight into the state of every community, whether large or small, urban or rural."

Today's release features data collected between 2011 and 2015 on more than 40 demographic, housing, social and economic topics, including commuting, educational attainment and home value. These statistics are available to explore on the Census Bureau website.

In the period for which data was collected, there were about 47 million adults 18 years and older living in rural areas. Most adults in both rural and urban areas owned their own homes but the percentage was higher in rural areas (81.1% compared with 59.8%). Adults in rural areas were also more likely to live in single-family homes (78.3% compared with 64.6%) and live in their state of birth (65.4% compared with 48.3%). Veterans comprised 10.4% of the population of adults in rural areas compared with 7.8% of adults in urban areas.

Adults in rural areas had a median age of 51, making them older compared with adults in urban areas with a median age of 45. They had lower rates of poverty (11.7% compared with 14.0%) but were less likely to have obtained a bachelor's degree or higher (19.5% compared with 29.0%). Rural communities had fewer adults born in other countries compared with those in urban areas (4.0% compared with 19.0%).

Measuring America: Our Changing Landscape[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Among other findings:

  • About 13.4 million children under the age of 18 lived in the rural areas of the nation.
  • Children in rural areas had lower rates of poverty (18.9% compared with 22.3%) but more of them were uninsured (7.3% compared with 6.3%). A higher percentage of own children in rural areas lived in married-couple households (76.3% compared with 67.4%).
  • Compared with households in urban areas, rural households had lower median household income ($52,386 compared with $54,296), lower median home values ($151,300 compared with $190,900), and lower monthly housing costs for households paying a mortgage ($1,271 compared with $1,561). A higher percentage owned their housing units "free and clear," with no mortgage or loan (44.0% compared with 32.3%).
  • States with the highest median household incomes in rural areas were Connecticut ($93,382) and New Jersey ($92,972) (not statistically different from each other). The state with the lowest rural median household income was Mississippi ($40,200). Among rural areas, poverty rates varied from a low in Connecticut (4.6%) to a high in New Mexico (21.9%).

Researchers also compared rural residents in 704 completely rural counties—those whose entire populations lived in rural areas—with their rural counterparts in counties that were mostly rural, and those that were mostly urban.

Between 2011 and 2015, about 9.0% of the rural population in the United States (5.3 million) lived in these completely rural counties, compared with about 41.0% (24.6 million) in the 1,185 mostly rural counties and about 50.0% (30.1 million) in the 1,253 mostly urban counties. For a complete list of counties and where they fall on the rural-urban spectrum, visit this County Look-Up Table.

The American Community Survey five-year statistics show that the characteristics of rural residents differed depending on the level of rurality of their county of residence.

A "Rural America: How Does the U.S. Census Bureau Define "Rural?" interactive story map contains interactive web maps, information and images to help explain how the Census Bureau defines "rural."