This website contains historical information on the RUCAs - an update is in progress
Rural Health Research Center Center for Workforce Studies Regional Information Center

About Us

Ruca origins

During the mid-1990s, substantial interest was generated for creating sub-county measures of rural/urban status. Economic Research Service and the Bureau of the Census staff were involved as well as various researchers, especially geographers and demographers. Both Drs. John Cromartie and Richard Morrill were involved in this research and discussions. Various Census tract aspects were discussed including but not limited to population density and work commuting patterns). After discussions between Drs. John Cromartie, Richard Morrill, and Gary Hart with the federal Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the Department of Agriculture, a project was funded to develop a Census tract-based rural-urban taxonomy. The ORHP funded the WWAMI Rural Health Research Center (Drs. Hart and Morrill) and the ERS funded Dr. Cromartie in the fall of 1996. The first version of the Rural-Urban Commuting Areas (RUCAs) was made available to the public in 1998) (Version 1.0). As the RUCAs were being developed, many interested individuals were consulted and provided feedback, although they certainly are not responsible for any errors in the codes, either theoretical or mechanical (e.g., Drs. Calvin Beal, Michael Ratcliffe, Pat Taylor, and others). The ORHP subsequently funded the development of the ZIP code approximation of the RUCA codes. In the spring and summer of 2005 the new version 2.0 of the Census tract and ZIP codes was released to the public. During the years since the RUCAs were released their use has increased remarkably. They are currently used as the basis for eligibility for many federal programs and are being used by numerous health researchers.


We appreciate the resources for the development of the RUCA taxonomy that have been provided by the federal Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP)of the Health Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Health and Human Services and the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the Department of Agriculture.

The following graduate students have helped the principal investigators with the various analytical tasks and web development associated with the development and upkeep of Version 1.11 of the RUCAs: Meredith Fordyce, Emily Kaltenbach, Peter Nelson, James Peet, Dmitri Sharkov, and Xiaohong Hou. We thank Meredith Fordyce, PhD, for her collaboration in developing Version 2.0 of the RUCA codes and Catherine Veninga, PhD, for developing the initial version of this website.

We thank Pat Taylor for her initial faciliatory role in the creation and use of the RUCAs. Tom Morris, Steve Hirsch, and Joan Van Nostrand of the ORHP are appreciated for their continuing help in supporting the use of the RUCAs and with the 2000 update of the codes. In addition, we appreciate the suggestions of Calvin Beale, Linda Swanson, and Leslie Whitener of the ERS and Mike Ratcliffe of the Bureau of the Census.