Urban Change in the United States, 1990-2010: A Spatial Assessment of Administrative Reclassification Public Deposited

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  • In today’s increasingly urban world, understanding the components of urban population growth is essential. While the demographic components of natural increase and migration have received the overwhelming share of attention to date, this paper addresses the effects of administrative reclassification on urban population growth as derived from census data, which remain largely unstudied. We adopt a spatial approach, using the finest resolution US census data available for three decennial census periods, to estimate the magnitude of reclassification and examine the spatial-temporal variation in reclassification effects. We supplement the census data by using satellite-derived settlement data to further explain reclassification outcomes. We find that while 10% and 7% of the population live in areas that underwent urban/rural reclassification during the 1990–2000 and 2000–2010 time periods, respectively (with smaller fractions of corresponding land), reclassification has a substantial effect on metrics derived to characterize the urbanization process—comprising roughly 44% and 34% of total urban population growth over each period. The estimated magnitude of this effect is sensitive to assumptions regarding the timing of reclassification. The approach also reveals where, how, to what degree, and, in some part, why reclassification is affecting to the process of urbanization on the fine spatial scale, including the impact of underlying demographic processes. This research provides new directions to more effectively study coupled nature–human systems and their interactions.
Date Issued
  • 2020
Academic Affiliation
Journal Title
Journal Issue/Number
  • 4
Journal Volume
  • 12
Last Modified
  • 2022-05-23
Resource Type
Rights Statement
  • 2071-1050