The National Center for Education Statistics bases a
particular district’s locale code on the locale codes assigned to individual
schools within each district. To determine a district locale code, NCES applies
- If 50 percent or more of the district’s students attend schools
with the same locale code, the district is assigned that particular code;
- If there is not a majority of students attending schools in one
locale code, the district’s locale code is determined by plurality — that is,
the district is assigned whichever school-based locale code contains the
largest number of students.[*]
The “urban-centric” locale code categorizes urban and
suburban areas into subgroups based on their size, and categorizes town and
rural areas based on their distance from urbanized areas and urban clusters.
Distances are determined using straight-line or “Euclidean” distance. Although
this methodology “does not account for the presence or absence of road networks
that may offer point-to-point drive time estimates,” NCES justifies it by
pointing out that it is not affected by transportation infrastructure
modifications that could produce “significant fluctuations,” and it “provides
data users with a simple and familiar concept that is analytically useful and relatively
easy to implement.”[†]
The verbatim definitions of the 12 different locale
codes appear in Graphic 29.
Graphic 29: NCES Locale Code Definitions (Verbatim From
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
NCES uses the following definitions to clarify the
terms contained in Graphic 29 (verbatim from original):[§]
Principal City. Principal cities include the largest
place (incorporated or unincorporated) and other relatively large places that
serve as the primary population and employment centers within a CBSA. Principal
cities replaced the older central city term defined by OMB’s 1990 metropolitan
area standards, recognizing that many central cities have become much less
central (functionally and structurally) within increasingly polynucleated urban
areas. Although principal cities are present in both metropolitan and
micropolitan statistical areas, CCD City locale classifications are currently limited
to principal cities of metropolitan statistical areas only.
Rural. The Census Bureau classifies all population and
territory not included in an urbanized area or urban cluster as rural.
Urban (urbanized areas and urban clusters). The Census
Bureau defines an urban area as a densely settled core of census block groups
and census blocks that meet minimum population density requirements, along with
adjacent densely settled surrounding census 10 blocks. When a core area
contains a population of 50,000 or more, it is classified as an urbanized area
(UA). Core areas with population between 2,500 and 50,000 are classified as
urban clusters (UC).
[*] Phan and Glander, “Documentation to the NCES
Common Core of Data Local Education Agency Locale Code File: School Year
2005-06 “(National Center for Education Statistics, 2007), 5,
http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/ pdf/al051agen.pdf (accessed Feb. 22, 2011).
[†] Ibid., 7-8.
[‡] Ibid., 3-4.
[§] Ibid., 9-10.