Urban and Rural – Classification for Alaska

New urban and rural population data and areas have been prepared for Alaska based on the 2000 Census. The data were created by the US Census Bureau solely for the presentation and comparison of census statistical data. At its simplest definition, an urbanized area (UA) consists of densely settled territory that contains 50,000 or more people. And an urban cluster (UC) consists of densely settled territory that contains at least 2,500, but fewer than 50,000 people. To view the Census Bureau’s policy with respect to using the data for a nonstatistical program or purpose, click here.

The data and areas are presented as new, since they are now based on different criteria than in years past. Prior to the 2000 Census, the Bureau defined urban as all the population and territory within urbanized areas (densely settled areas containing at least 50,000 people) and within other places which had a population of 2,500 or more. After a rigorous review and in preparation for the new delineations, the Bureau decided to establish a geographic entity that better supplemented the urbanized areas. For Census 2000, it established urban clusters, which are densely settled areas with a population of 2,500 to 49,999. To view the criteria used to determine the new urban areas and urban clusters, click here.

In addition to establishing the new entity, urban cluster, the basis for delineating UAs and UCs has also changed. Instead of using boundaries of legal entities, the Census Bureau is now using aggregations of block groups and census blocks as the starting point. This resulted from a desire on the bureau’s part to define a continuum of urban territory created objectively and equitably for the entire Nation. To apply these criteria consistently, the use of governmental unit boundaries and criteria designed to include whole functioning governments had to be eliminated. The Census Bureau evaluated the geographic characteristics of municipal corporations and found widespread variation due to each state's unique set of annexation and incorporation laws. The lack of consistency among state laws for establishing governmental boundaries increased the likelihood that inconsistency would mar the resulting urban area definitions.

The term “extended city” has also been replaced by “extended place” because a census designated place (CDP) can now be partly urban and rural, the same as an incorporated place (city).

The new criteria significantly changed the universe of Census 2000 UAs due to the creation of new areas, areas formed by splits or mergers, name changes, and changed areas due to significant boundary changes. As a result there are now 453 UAs in the United States, compared to 396 in 1990.

How Criteria Affected Alaska

Only one newly qualified urban area emerged in Alaska (that had not been part of a 1990 Census UA) and that was within the Fairbanks North Star Borough. To view a map of the new area, click here.

The Anchorage Municipality which contained the only UA in 1990, experienced what the Census Bureau refers to as other significant change (unrelated to splits and mergers) to this boundary which resulted in a smaller overall UA for 2000 plus a new UC. Both were defined from part of the 1990 Census UA. To view a map of the new area, click here.

The following is the new list of Alaska’s urbanized areas and urban clusters based on the 2000 Census. It also shows the population, square meters and population density. The naming convention is somewhat different from 1990 in that the name represents the general area of the UA or UC, and not that the whole place is urban or rural.

Alaska Urbanized Areas and Urban Clusters for 2000 (Corrected)*

UA/UC Code UA/UC Name Total Population SQ Meters Population Density
02305 Anchorage UA 225,744 204,214,975 2,863.0
28549 Fairbanks UA 51,926 111,656,982 1,204.5
02332 Anchorage Northeast UC (Eagle River) 24,276 39,107,444 1,607.7
05275 Barrow UC 4,322 27,133,802 412.5
07381 Bethel UC 4,436 5,428,915 2,116.3
43561 Juneau UC (Mendenhall Valley) 17,311 31,125,482 1,440.5
43588 Juneau South UC (Downtown Juneau-Douglas) 7,909 15,267,129 1,341.7
44344 Kenai UC 4,248 10,110,522 1,088.2
44668 Ketchikan UC (N to S Tongass Hwy & City) 10,673 14,915,022 1853
45667 Kodiak UC 10,768 14,028,950 1,988.0
05748 Kotzebue UC 3,072 5,283,666 1,505.9
59086 Moose Creek UC 5,709 101,967,288 145.0
63379 Nome UC 2,956 1,471,919 5,201.4
67159 Palmer UC 4,506 6,851,317 1,703.4
68914 Petersburg UC 2,817 6,504,631 1,121.7
82306 Sitka UC 7,322 15,411,024 1,230.5
82819 Soldotna UC 3,626 4,996,953 1,879.4
89434 Unalaska UC 3,101 2,912,520 2,757.6
92458 Wasilla UC 16,535 56,296,796 760.7

* The correction (clerical) refers to a reference printed in the August 23, 2002 federal register (Vol. 67, No. 164) which made corrections to a list of UAs and UCs previously released in a May 1, 2002 Federal Register (67 FR 21962). It said: The text for the Anchorage, AK, notes incorrectly referenced the “Northwest Anchorage, AK urban cluster (UC).” The urban cluster name is Anchorage Northeast.

For a table which lists the urban/rural distribution for every place in Alaska, click here. Two additional tables available are:

  1. A comparison of what was urban in 1990 and 2000
  2. Places which were considered urban in 1990 and were defined as rural in 2000.