'Rural' is fewer than 50,000 people

I read a story on Page 6A of the Mail Tribune Thursday, "Rural U.S. fades: Just 16 percent live in small towns," with interest. It detailed the decline of many American communities, and it's sad to see small towns losing people. But nowhere in the 22-inch story were we told what constitutes a small town. Can somebody help me with that omission?

— Mary L., Eagle Point

Using our ability to dig back through the deep cellars of Associated Press archives, we here in the bunker of the SYA News Mining Headquarters uncovered the rest of the story you found so interesting. About 18 inches more, in fact, which discussed U.S. counties with the biggest population declines and the growth of larger cities.

Two paragraphs below where the story in our paper ended, we found the answer to your question. "Rural" is generally defined as non-metropolitan areas with fewer than 50,000 people.

We further learned that fewer people live in deeply rural places, instead residing in towns within range of a regional hospital — or Walmart.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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