Ohio's Urban-Rural Interdependencies

Ohio has a distinct urban influence. With 11.7 million residents, Ohio is the seventh most populous state in the nation. More than 50% of Ohio residents live in 10 of the 88 counties (Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Lucus, Mahoning, Montgomery, Summit, and Stark). Ohio has six cities with populations of more than 100,000 (Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton, and Toledo). Only 12 other states have more cities of this size.

Ohio has an important rural influence. Thirty-two Ohio counties are part of the 13 state Appalachian Regional Commission. Thirty-one percent of Ohio is forested according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  Rural Ohio is home to more than 75,000 farms across nearly 14 million acres. According to USDA Rural Development, sales of farm and ranch products contributed $10 billion to Ohio’s economy in 2012. Rural America at a Glance.

Ohio has unique urban-suburban-rural connections. Various indicators in the state demonstrate a dynamic flow of people and other resources throughout all geographic areas along the urban and rural continuum. Many Ohioans live in one county, work in another, and enjoy recreation and tourism in other counties. Other flows are studied from various interrelated perspectives, such as land use, commerce, food, water, waste, pollution, and the environment. The resource section below includes links for further details.

Strengthening cities, strengthens Ohio. With a presence in all Ohio communities, OSU Extension continues to advance engagement with rural, suburban, and urban Ohioans. Shifts in demographic characteristics, community conditions, and urban-suburban-rural interdependencies have resulted in unique strategies to bring people and ideas together in ways that are relevant locally, responsive statewide, and recognized nationally. Useful resources to illustrate these shifts include:

What is the meaning of terms such as city, metropolitan, and urban? 
The following definitions and classifications provide a basic framework to begin understanding some of the elements related to Ohio cities, counties, and regions. Total population, population density, and popluation shifts, such as growth or decline, can influence a geographic area's designation. In Ohio, urban and rural areas share many interdependencies.

Metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas (metro and micro areas) are geographic entities delineated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for use by Federal statistical agencies in collecting, tabulating, and publishing Federal statistics. The term "Core Based Statistical Area" (CBSA) is a collective term for both metro and micro areas. A metro area contains a core urban area of 50,000 or more population, and a micro area contains an urban core of at least 10,000 (but less than 50,000) population. Each metro or micro area consists of one or more counties and includes the counties containing the core urban area, as well as any adjacent counties that have a high degree of social and economic integration (as measured by commuting to work) with the urban core.

Ohio Metro and Micro Areas, from the Ohio Development Services Agency.

The 2013 Urban Influence Codes form a classification scheme that distinguishes metropolitan counties by population size of their metro area, and non-metropolitan counties by size of the largest city or town and proximity to metro and micropolitan areas. The standard Office of Management and Budget (OMB) metro and non-metro categories have been subdivided into two metro and 10 non-metro categories, resulting in a 12-part county classification. This scheme was originally developed in 1993. This scheme allows researchers to break county data into finer residential groups, beyond metro and non-metro, particularly for the analysis of trends in non-metro areas that are related to population density and metro influence. An update of the Urban Influence Codes is planned for mid-2023.

The Census Bureau’s urban-rural classification is fundamentally a delineation of geographical areas, identifying both individual urban areas and the rural areas of the nation. The Census Bureau’s urban areas represent densely developed territory, and encompass residential, commercial, and other non-residential urban land use. The Census Bureau identifies two types of urban areas: Urbanized Areas (UAs) of 50,000 or more people; and Urban Clusters (UCs) of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people. “Rural” encompasses all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area.


The Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at The Ohio State University serves as a bridge across academia, industry, and the policy sector by providing spatial analysis of economic, social, environmental, and health issues in urban and regional settings in Ohio and beyond.

The C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy leads a nationally and internationally recognized research and outreach program focused on priority issues related to rural and urban communities and their growth. The Swank Program conducts and supports research, teaching, and outreach within the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center; and Ohio State University Extension.

Other Ohio State resources: Knowlton School of Architecture, City and Regional Planning, Urban Arts Space, University District Campus Partners, Department of Geography, Urban Regional, and Global Studies

In May 2013, the Fund for Our Economic Future released What Matters to Metros, a comprehensive study of factors driving metropolitan economies across the country and in Northeast Ohio.

Ohio Census Quick Facts, by county or city

Ohio Profile and County Trends and the American Community Survey, from the Ohio Development Services Agency

Ohio population estimates by county, city, village, and township

Demographics: To learn more about the people in Ohio communities, Nielsen provides PRIZM Segment Explorer, which is an interactive tool to examine segment groups based on demographics and behaviors. The system classifies U.S. households into one of 66 categories based on Census data, leading consumer surveys and compiled household files, and other public and private sources of demographic and consumer information. To learn more about people in each community, seach by zip code.