What are Active Cities?

The data on our website and reports are sourced from the US Census Bureau. The US Census Bureau doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all type of category for cities because different regions think about and organize their cities a little differently for statistical and administrative purposes. The three different ways a state can organize its cities are Census Places, County Subdivisions, or Consolidated Cities.


"Census Places" are the most like what we normal people (a.k.a. non-geographers) think of when we think of cities. They are populated areas that include both incorporated places, like cities and towns, and unincorporated places, like villages or hamlets.

County Subdivisions

"County Subdivisions" are areas designated by the Census Bureau for statistical purposes. They might represent townships or other similar areas, and they can vary widely from state to state.

Consolidated Cities

"Consolidated Cities" are a bit special. They occur when a city and a county have merged into one unified jurisdiction, so there's no separation between city and county governments, and they cover the same geographic area.

"Now that’s all well and good,” you say. “But at the end of the day, I still want data for cities." We hear you! To produce data for just “cities,” we’ve contacted each state’s data center and asked for their guidance on what they consider to be a “city.” The state data centers provide us with recommendations on whether we should use only places, only county subdivisions, or a mix of all three geography types.

Based on this local guidance, we've created our own list of geographies that we call "Active Cities." The goal of our “Active Cities” list is to reflect what people commonly think of as cities in their state.

Do you have feedback on how we can improve our Active Cities logic to better reflect your understanding of a city in your state? Contact us, we’re all ears!

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