How do urban and rural communities differ?

Federal Institute for Building, Urban and Spatial Research

The room types 2010 serve analytical purposes in the context of the preparation of the upcoming regional planning report in the BBSR and not as a planning specification. They represent a further development of the "spatial structure types ROB 2005" presented in the regional planning report 2005, in that they take up new content-related criteria and methodological possibilities.

The spatial structure types ROB 2005 underpinned the development process of the new models of spatial development published in summer 2006, which were task-oriented to address all spatial categories and therefore deliberately avoided references to categories such as "rural areas". The new spatial types 2010 now take up aspects of possible effects of the new model of spatial development on the policy for rural areas: They map the urban-rural continuum and identify new homogeneous spatial units as analysis grids for spatial planning reporting by the federal government.

Settlement and location

The typing concept is based on the consideration of two spatial basic structural features:

  • settlement by differentiating between predominantly urban and rural areas, classified according to population density and proportion of settlement area (local / small-scale scale)
  • the location, i.e. differentiation between central and peripheral areas, classified according to the potentially accessible daily population; (regional / large scale level)

The spatial classification is carried out nationwide for the federal territory according to uniform criteria and remains largely independent of (changeable) administrative boundaries. Aggregated for municipalities or associations of municipalities, a small-scale analysis grid is available for spatial observation purposes in addition to the existing spatial delimitations.

As a result, the types of space differentiate between rural and urban surroundings in terms of settlement and between very central, central, peripheral, very peripheral location in terms of location. A combination of all types is possible, but not necessarily intended as an analysis grid. Rather, evaluations should be carried out separately according to the two basic structural features and, depending on the context of the investigation, problem-oriented for certain, selected type combinations. For example, the types rural and peripheral / very peripheral can be combined into the space category "rural-peripheral space" and evaluated in comparison with other spaces.

The regional economic power and its development is a third basic structural characteristic that is not initially part of the spatial classification. This third dimension can in no way be tied to the dimensions of location and settlement structure, but must be viewed independently of them.


Settlement delimitation method

The basic structural feature settlement is based on two settlement structural feature components, population density and settlement area share. Highly dense areas, just like high settlement coverage, represent urban surroundings and less dense areas and a high proportion of open space represent rural surroundings.

In order to arrive at a morphological demarcation characterized by the visible appearance, both features are not considered in relation to administrative units, but rather across borders in a small-scale grid cell analysis within a 3 km radius. The area of ​​a circle with a 3 km radius corresponds roughly to the average area size of a municipality in Germany. This area can often still be seen in the surrounding landscape and is therefore characteristic of the respective location. In addition, local supply takes place in this area.

The component population density uses the result of a grid-based disaggregation of population figures. The populations of municipalities and city districts were broken down into settlement areas with different weightings (grid cells with an edge length of 250 m).

The settlement area component is based on a calculation of settlement areas in a 3 km radius, based on geographic base data: ATKIS Basis DLM25 (digital landscape model of the BKG, layer localities and structurally characterized areas as of 2004) and CORINE 2000 (areas consistently urban, areas not - consistently urban and industrial and commercial areas).

A room typification is strongly dependent on the granularity of the analysis and the formation of class boundaries. The classification was carried out in such a way that the inner differentiation of larger municipal areas or of urban regions in the urban-rural continuum is recorded: An urban environment is based on the demarcation of agglomerations based on similar criteria according to the Ministerial Conference for Spatial Planning (MKRO) of 1993 those areas (grid cells) that show above-average values ​​both in terms of population density and the proportion of settlement area. Areas (or area gaps) smaller than 5 hectares are not taken into account. All other areas are considered to be rural.


Demarcation methodology location

The spatial delimitation of the basic structural feature location is based on accessibility analyzes with the accessibility model of the BBSR. The location classification on a regional to large-scale scale uses a centrality index to consider the proximity to concentrations of the population and jobs, which are also characterized by a bundled range of employment opportunities and supply facilities.

A complete source-destination matrix of all almost 4,800 community associations forms the basis for calculating the daily population potential within 2 hours of driving time in motorized individual traffic (MIT). Daily population means that not only the number of residents representing the resident population but also the number of residents including the (professional) commuter balance of the municipal associations is included in order to take into account the functional importance of (labor market) centers.

The achievable daily population is calculated and cumulated both for the community association itself and for those community associations whose main settlements can be reached within 2 hours of driving, with only half of the populations reached being included every 10 minutes of driving time. Based on a gravitational model, the applied distance function weights nearer population and workplace concentrations higher than more distant ones, in which the required car travel time is included as a resistance value. The selected half-life of 10 min driving time is supported by studies on traffic behavior (including mobility in Germany 2002, BBSR survey). After that, the intensity of contact and / or intertwining of commuters halves with increasing travel time approximately every 10 to 15 minutes.

In order to get from the indicator "reachable daily population" to a location classification of the municipal associations, statistical key figures were used to form class boundaries. For this purpose, the original value scale of the indicator was logarithmized due to its right-skewed distribution. The threshold value formation is based on the mean value calculated in this way (183,000) +/- one standard deviation. It provides a classification into four types, very central, central, peripheral and very peripheral.


Aggregation on municipalities and associations of municipalities

In order to be used for regional statistical evaluations, the results must be related to municipalities / municipal associations or higher spatial aggregates. The basic structural characteristic of settlement distinguishes only two types at the grid level: urban environment and rural environment. When aggregating to municipalities / associations of municipalities, it is necessary to add a transition type due to the differences within the municipalities. There are three types of settlement structure:

  • predominantly urban: Municipalities / associations of municipalities with at least 50% urban area share - this means that those municipalities / associations of municipalities whose area is predominantly in an urban area are classified as predominantly urban.
  • partly urban: Municipalities / associations of municipalities with an area share of at least 23% urban area (federal value) or with an area of ​​urban area of ​​at least 15 km² - this means that all municipalities / municipal associations with a higher area share of urban surroundings than the entire federal area (23% ) are considered to be partly urban. This type also includes municipalities / associations of municipalities with an absolute area in an urban environment in the order of half the average size of a municipality (around 15 km²). The last, absolute criterion takes into account in particular the area sizes that have grown in recent times as a result of municipal area reforms.
  • rural: municipality-free areas and all other municipalities / associations of municipalities

The basic structural feature location was typified at the level of municipal associations, represented by the settlement focal points. Territorial changes or disaggregation on municipalities take place via value assignments through an interpolated statistical surface. In the case of aggregation on districts or other higher room levels, mixed types are also required for units that have a strong internal gradient.

The following table lists the area, population and employment shares of the municipalities, differentiated according to the type of space:

Settlement structureLocation typesurfacepopulationEmployees


very peripheral17,5%3,2%1,9%
very central0,7%0,4%0,2%
a total of60,6%18,1%10,6%
partly urbanvery peripheral1,2%0,8%0,9%
very central1,7%1,7%1,3%
a total of19,1%15,1%13,6%
mostly urbanvery peripheral0,2%0,3%0,3%
very central9,3%44,0%50,3%
a total of20,3%66,8%75,8%
a total ofvery peripheral18,9%4,4%3,1%
very central11,6%46,1%51,8%

The municipalities classified as predominantly urban only take up a good 20% of the federal territory. Two thirds of the resident population and a good three quarters of the jobs are concentrated there. In the partly urban communities, the population and employment shares lag behind a similar area share of not quite 20%. The rural communities cover 60% of the federal territory, about 18% of the inhabitants live there and only 10% of the employees work.

As expected, the localization of the municipalities also shows a strong concentration of population and jobs. Around half of the population lives and works in the very centrally located municipalities with a share of 11%. The other extreme is provided by very peripheral communities, which only provide around 4% of the population and 3% of jobs on just under 20% of the area.

To conclude from this that the rural area is of insufficient importance would be wrong. Rural does not mean peripheral and, in contrast to rural areas, which include urban centers, urban centers are by definition excluded in rural communities. Only when aggregating at regional level can one speak of "rural areas", which of course also includes urban centers. The importance of the rural area lies in its functional potential: It has numerous functions without which life in cities and metropolitan areas would be impossible.