With the help of our partners, the SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare has curated a list of resources for researchers of rural. We recommend using the "start here" tab to learn more about various topics important to rural research. Each topic will lead you to reports and fact sheets created by leading organizations within our state. If you are looking for primary data sources, the "Data Source" tab provides information on free or low cost data available to researchers.
If you need additional assistance or are looking to partner with our Center for your research, use the Contact Us tab to get in touch!
Our Rural 101 page contains numerous resources to get you introduced to the world of rural healthcare, policy, and community.
We also strongly recommend using the Rural and Minority Health Research Center's Foundational Background Reading list to get acquainted with important rural topics and terminology.
Rural Health Information (RHI) Hub
The Rural Health Information Hub, formerly the Rural Assistance Center, is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to be a national clearinghouse on rural health issues. Find information, opportunities, and resources on rural health.
Am I Rural tool
Easy to use tool developed by RHIhub to determine whether your specific location is considered rural based on various definitions of rural, including definitions that are used as eligibility criteria for federal programs.
Rural Health Research Gateway
The Rural Health Research Gateway provides easy and timely access to research conducted by the Rural Health Research Centers, funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.
SC Office of Rural Health
A non-profit organization with a mission to close the gap in health status and life expectancy between rural and urban communities in the Palmetto State.
SC Rural Health Care Resource Dashboard
A user-directed, interactive tool, utilizing existing data related to provider distribution, health care facility locations, disease burden, and health care utilization patterns across the state.
Office for Healthcare Workforce
The South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce supports effective workforce planning efforts throughout the state by studying the issues that affect the available supply of healthcare providers. The Office for Healthcare Workforce creates discipline-specific reports, publishes the South Carolina Health Professions Data Book, responds to data requests and more.
SC Hospital Association Data Center
SCHA has a dedicated Data Center staffed with experts in data measurement and analysis. The Data Center provides technical assistance on initiatives, administers statewide healthcare data for SC hospitals, and produces quality of care and health metrics reports for member hospitals and the state as a whole.
Rural and Minority Health Research Center
Investigates persistent inequities in health status within rural and minority populations in the United States, with an emphasis on inequities stemming from socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, access to healthcare services, and other macro level factors.
There are more than a dozen definitions of rural used within the US today. For a brief review of Rural Definition, read our whitepaper: What is Rural?
You can also learn more about commonly used definitions below.
The Census Bureau’s urban-rural classification is fundamentally a delineation of geographical areas, identifying both individual urban areas and the rural areas of the nation. The Census Bureau’s urban areas represent densely developed territory, and encompass residential, commercial, and other non-residential urban land uses. The Census Bureau delineates urban areas after each decennial census by applying specified criteria to decennial census and other data.
The Census Bureau identifies two types of urban areas:
- Urbanized Areas (UAs) of 50,000 or more people;
- Urban Clusters (UCs) of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people.
“Rural” encompasses all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area.
Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas are collectively referred to as Core-Based Statistical Areas.
- Metropolitan statistical areas have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.
- Micropolitan statistical areas are a new set of statistical areas that have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.
- Counties that are not part of either Metropolitan nor Micropolitan Statistical Areas are considered “Outside Core-Based Statistical Area” or non-core counties
Metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas are defined in terms of whole counties or county equivalents, including the six New England states.
The rural-urban commuting area (RUCA) codes classify U.S. census tracts using measures of population density, urbanization, and daily commuting. The classification contains two levels. Whole numbers (1-10) delineate metropolitan, micropolitan, small town, and rural commuting areas based on the size and direction of the primary (largest) commuting flows. These 10 codes are further subdivided based on secondary commuting flows, providing flexibility in combining levels to meet varying definitional needs and preferences.
|1||Metropolitan area core: primary flow within an Urbanized Area (UA)|
|1.1||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a larger UA|
|2||Metropolitan area high commuting: primary flow 30% or more to a UA|
|2.1||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a larger UA|
|3||Metropolitan area low commuting: primary flow 10% to 30% to a UA|
|4||Micropolitan area core: primary flow within an Urban Cluster (UC) of 10,000|
|4.1||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a UA|
|4.2||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a UA|
|5||Micropolitan high commuting: primary flow 30% or more to a large UC|
|5.1||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a UA|
|5.2||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a UA|
|6||Micropolitan low commuting: primary flow 10% to 30% to a large UC|
|6.1||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a UA|
|7||Small town core: primary flow within an Urban Cluster of 2,500 through 9,999|
|7.1||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a UA|
|7.2||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a large UC|
|7.3||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a UA|
|7.4||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a large UC|
|8||Small town high commuting: primary flow 30% or more to a small UC|
|8.1||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a UA|
|8.2||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a large UC|
|8.3||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a UA|
|8.4||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a large UC|
|9||Small town low commuting: primary flow 10% through 29% to a small UC|
|9.1||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a UA|
|9.2||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a large UC|
|10||Rural areas: primary flow to a tract outside a UA or UC (including self)|
|10.1||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a UA|
|10.2||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a large UC|
|10.3||Secondary flow 30% through 49% to a small UC|
|10.4||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a UA|
|10.5||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a large UC|
|10.6||Secondary flow 10% through 29% to a large UC|
Table adapted from the 2013 Rural-Urban Commuting Area documentation
The Rural-Urban Continuum Code (RUCC) is the predecessor of RUCA. It uses a 9-point scale that distributes counties into three metropolitan and six nonmetropolitan classification.
|1||Counties in metro areas of 1 million population or more|
|2||Counties in metro areas of 250,000 to 1 million population|
|3||Counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population|
|4||Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area|
|5||Urban population of 20,000 or more, not adjacent to a metro area|
|6||Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, adjacent to a metro area|
|7||Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, not adjacent to a metro area|
|8||Completely rural or less than 2,500 urban population, adjacent to a metro area|
|9||Completely rural or less than 2,500 urban population, not adjacent to a metro area|
The 2013 Urban Influence Codes (UIC) form a classification scheme that distinguishes metropolitan counties by population size of their metro area, and nonmetropolitan counties by size of the largest city or town and proximity to metro and micropolitan areas.
UIC uses a 12-point scale that distributes counties into two metropolitan and 10 nonmetropolitan categories based on their size and adjacency to other counties.
|1||In large metro area of 1+ million residents|
|2||In small metro area of less than 1 million residents|
|3||Micropolitan area adjacent to large metro area|
|4||Noncore adjacent to large metro area|
|5||Micropolitan area adjacent to small metro area|
|6||Noncore adjacent to small metro area and contains a town of at least 2,500 residents|
|7||Noncore adjacent to small metro area and does not contain a town of at least 2,500 residents|
|8||Micropolitan area not adjacent to a metro area|
|9||Noncore adjacent to micro area and contains a town of at least 2,500 residents|
|10||Noncore adjacent to micro area and does not contain a town of at least 2,500 residents|
|11||Noncore not adjacent to metro or micro area and contains a town of at least 2,500 residents|
|12||Noncore not adjacent to metro or micro area and does not contain a town of at least 2,500 residents|
* adapted from the 2013 Urban Influence Code documentation
The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) blended the most commonly used definitions to create their own representation of rural for use in their programs. This definition is largely based on the OMB’s definition of non-metro counties but uses RUCA codes to recategorize areas within metropolitan counties as rural. However, in larger tracts, RUCA can sometimes miscategorize areas as it doesn’t account for distance to services and sparse population. In these cases, the FORHP developed their own identifying characteristics to ensure more precise categorization: tracts of a least 400 square miles with a population density of 35 people or less are rural.
Thus, FORHP uses a stepwise approach to defining rural:
- Counties classified as non-metro by the OMB are rural
- Within metropolitan counties, tracts and zip codes with a RUCA code of 4 or more are rural
- Within areas with a RUCA code of 2 or 3, any tracts of at least 400 square miles and a population density of no more than 35 people are rural.
State Licensure data from SC Labor Licensing Regulation - State data available for any profession which requires a license, including MD/DO, Dentists, ect. Can be requested at the individual level and can include information on practice location and provider demographics.
SC LLR may charge a fee for data requests, especially if they are large and/or complex.
Free state and county level aggregates can be obtained from the SC Office of Healthcare Workforce's Health Professions Databook.
Free national data aggregates may be obtained for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Medicaid and State Health Plan data from the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office - Request claims or payor data sets for inpatient, outpatient, and emergency departments. Includes information about procedures, diagnosis, charges, length of stay and more.
SC RFA may charge a fee for data requests, especially if they are large and/or complex.
Free county level data may be obtained in the Area Health Resources Files provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration
Licensed SC Healthcare Facilities data (available as lists or an interactive map) are available from the SC DHEC Bureau of Health Facilities Licensing.
Health risk dataset from the SC DHEC Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System - Request deidentified data on quality of life, prevalence of diseases, healthcare access and more.
SC DHEC may charge a fee for data requests, especially if they are large and/or complex. Aggregated reports are available for free.
Free health risk behavior data as well as morbidity of diabetes and arthritis for SC counties is available from the SC Community Assessment Network.
Free aggregated health factors and outcomes data for all US counties available from County Health Rankings.
Free national health statistics data and estimates from the National Health Interview Survey is available using the Interactive Data Query System
All cause mortality data from the DHEC's SC Community Assessment Network - Historical and current county level data on deaths, fetal deaths, and infant mortality.
Cause-Specific death rate data from CDC wonder - National mortality and population data by place of residence (national, state, and some county), age, race, gender, and cause of death.
Didn't find what you were looking for? Want to suggest a new resource or topic? Use the form below to get in touch with the SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare.