Identifying and Understanding Rural Cores: mapping the shifting rural paradigm in Montana

Authors: Peter Scilla*, Univeristy of Montana
Topics: Rural Geography, Urban Geography, Geographic Theory
Keywords: rurality, Montana, capital migration, spatial organization, commuting
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


More than four-fifths of the United States now lives in urbanized areas, underscoring a nationwide rural-to-urban migration pattern persistent since industrialization. This rustic exodus has further ingrained into popular culture misrepresentative and superficial notions of rurality and compounded the experienced negligence of rural communities and residents. As social mobility continues to rise per capita throughout the nation, and urban America’s share of the population increases, the once distinct rural frontier blurs. Constrictive statistical definitions used by governmental institutions to delineate this boundary fail to epitomize the myriad nuances of community life in rural places both alike and otherwise; current standards purport an unfocused rurality largely extant as the byproduct of urban actors. Through analyses in a GIS, this research borrows from conventional descriptions of the rural-urban divide to recontextualize the spatiality of rural communities in a way that better encapsulates their varying socioeconomic and sociocultural natures, as well as their interconnectedness to surrounding regions. Rather than a stagnant or nodal criterion, it utilizes the USDA rural-urban commuting area (RUCA) codes to illustrate flows of human capital between non-metropolitan census tracts and their hinterlands in the state of Montana—one of the country’s largest, most geographically diverse, and most rural. Its purpose is threefold: to inform federal policy so that the allocation of resources to rural places in need is better directed; to explore the effects geographic recontextualization may have on the changing rural-urban archetype; and to expand the growing body of literature bridging rural and urban issues within academia.

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