Census Bureau: Urban, Rural, Country, Rock n Roll


Star Wars has nothing to do with Donny and Marie Osmond and neither has anything to do with the U.S. Census Bureau. Until now, that is.

The opening crawl of the Star Wars film series begins, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…..” For old timers, the late 1970s isn’t exactly ancient history and a variety show called Donny & Marie could have been the center of a TV galaxy for millions of viewers. The brother-sister act ruled Friday night television with comedy skits, celebrity spots, and of course, songs.

A reoccurring segment was the so-called Concert Spot. Marie insisted she was a little bit country by performing a country music song, and Donny, who was a little bit roll and roll, would sing a popular rock ’n roll tune. Oh those two kids. What did they grow up to be?

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau is the primary statistical agency for the U.S. government. The Bureau goes back to another galaxy far, far away when Thomas Jefferson ordered the first census count in 1790. The U.S. Constitution requires a census every ten years and the results determine the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for each state along with the annual distribution of hundreds of billions of federal funds.

The results of the 2020 Census are now seeing the light of day. One topic is the classification of urban and rural areas. On one hand, Census said our nation’s urban population increased by 6.4 percent between 2010 and 2020. However, Census also announced it changed the way urban areas are defined.

Let’s set the stage. St. Croix and Pierce counties in Wisconsin are included in the federal definition of the 15-county Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI Metropolitan Area, a/k/a the Twin Cities Metro Area. Urban right? Tell that to the young lady on a $500,000 tractor in the middle of a few hundred acres of corn or beans or the operator of a five generation dairy farm and its 1,500 cows. Their perspectives are pretty rural. But to empty nesters wishing to be closer to grandchildren, St. Croix and Pierce may be ideal landing spots for urban qualities in small town settings. The Really Big Cities are across the St. Croix River in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Going back over 100 years, the Bureau used the threshold of 2,500 residents to define urban. As of late 2022, the revised definition is 5,000 residents. A community under 5,000 can still be classified as urban if it has at least 2,500 housing units.

Population in St. Croix’s Hudson, New Richmond, and River Falls are all above 5,000. They’re urban by virtue of both the Twin Cities Metro Area designation and their 2020 population estimates. Baldwin, with around 4,300 residents, was previously designated as urban, but is now rural. Ditto for Prescott (4,333) and Ellsworth (3,350) in Pierce County and Amery (2,962) and Osceola (2,765) in Polk County.

Confused? Don’t be. If you understand Star Wars and Donny & Marie, it’s possible to understand the Census Bureau. Urban or rural, Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley has plenty of wide open spaces and metro amenities to enjoy.