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Accurate analysis of the economic and social problems currently facing urban and rural residents, as well as the implementation of programs to address them, largely depend on how settlement is measured. Counties are too big in many parts of the Nation to serve as building blocks for statistical areas used to analyze changing settlement patterns. Census tracts are used here to identify metro and nonmetro components of a five-level “rural-urban continuum.” The census-tract continuum provides a more precise territorial delineation of areas and classification of population in different types of areas than does the county-level continuum.


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