Exploring Regional Differences in Rural and Urban Mortality Trends

Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2016
Project completed:
August 2017

Previous research has established both that there is a gap in nationwide urban-rural mortality and that this gap is increasing over time. Existing and ongoing work has found that the urban-rural mortality gap may vary regionally. This brief builds upon previous research and explores the differences in mortality trends between urban and rural locations by census division from 1999 to 2015. Using data from CDC WONDER's Compressed Mortality File, we calculated urban and rural all-cause mortality rates in each of the nine census divisions. Confirming previous research, we found that rural mortality is higher than urban mortality in every year. Further, the difference between urban and rural mortality is increasing nationwide: The disparity after 2007 is larger than the disparity before 2007 in all nine census divisions. The urban-rural disparity also varies regionally; for example, rural mortality rates, and differences between the urban and rural mortality rates, are the highest in the Southeastern United States. The regional variation in the rural and urban mortality gap over time suggests that more research must be done to explain underlying causes of these disparities and to support the development of policies that can mitigate them.


  • Regional Differences in Rural and Urban Mortality Trends
    Policy Brief
    North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center
    Date: 08/2017
    This brief explores the differences in mortality rates over time by (1) urban and rural location, (2) census division, and (3) urban and rural location within each census division.