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Relationship between rural and urban areas

Rural areas can be defined as those pieces of land that can lie outside city centers and towns. They are mostly marked by large farms, agricultural activity or large pieces of land that lie idle without much developmental activities. An urban area on the other hand is an area marked with developed town centers and some times these towns have developed into cities. In a majority of cases, these towns were once rural area, which through advances in technology, industrialization and urbanization have grown into what they now are. It therefore goes without saying that both rural and urban centers have something that they can interact in common with. In a quest to develop into urban areas, rural areas need to borrow some development tips from the urban centers, while the urban centers on the other hand would not survive without the support from the rural areas for example in terms of agricultural products that come from the rural areas to support livelihood therein. In addition, movement of people, goods and resources from one point to another keep these two diversified areas in close connections (Routledge, 2005 p. 67).

Over the years, history has proved that any urban city today ahs some rural origin within it. It therefore seems tentatively correct to say that very village is a potential city in waiting. However, there are those special scenarios that would like to prove this otherwise, especially in the case where the more developed areas within the same region, nation or state seem to dominate over the less developed instead of according the necessary support in achieving a common goal of becoming urbanized (Brunn, and Jack, 2003 p. 26).

In order to have a closer analysis of the urban-rural interaction, this study was divided into four sections as follows: Introduction, literature review, findings and analysis and a conclusion.


Having a glimpse at what authors have to say on this topic helped to get a preview on what was expected as an outcome of the study. According to Eveline Leeuwen in the book ‘Urban-Rural interactions: Towns as focus points in Rural Development, there are some key factors that distinguish rural areas from urban centers, but these factors vary greatly from country to country and from region to region. What may be defined as urban in one country could be totally rural in another and vice versa. However, these are guidelines that could help us to establish the milestones that have been achieved into progression from rural to urban (Eveline, 2010 p. 123)

One of the elements is ecology, which is basically concerned with population density. The number of people living in a given place will help qualify the area as either rural or urban. It is a well known fact that urban areas are more populated than rural ones. However, again the figures could be dependent on the general population of that country as a whole. For example, in Switzerland, urban areas are those that have inhabitants that total to 10,000 or more, while in Iceland, populations of 200 or more inhabitants pass for urban. Such is the contrast in definition in different countries. (Eveline, 2010 p. 123)

The second element that is considered in the differentiation of rural and urban centers is the economic element. This refers to the activities that are carried out with the aim of generating revenue. In rural areas, much of the activities aimed at generation of capital are agricultural-based, while in the urban areas they are non-agricultural. In the urban areas, there happens to be diversifies activities that calls for diversely-oriented labor force. This means therefore that there is a lot of movement in and out of the towns as people either commute to work daily, or they move from the rural areas into the urban in search of employment. Those found to commute between the rural and urban are those who find the living costs within the urban areas too high to bear (Caroline, Anne, 2010 p. 54).

The third aspect that differentiates the two is the social aspect which looks at how people conduct their daily lives in terms of behavior, the values they hold dear as well as the channels they use for communication. There is a wide array of factors that can be categorized into the social aspect of the urban and rural settings, but they are difficult to measure, hence leaving us with an enormous task of defining what is urban and what is rural (Caroline, Anne, 2010 p. 54).

Urbanization and industrialization as factors of transformation from rural to urban

Urbanization in simple terms is the process through which rural villages are slowly but surely transformed from remote, uncivilized centers, into modernized, industrialized and connected centers. This is made possible by the increasing proportions of people living in the urban settings. As people continue to increase in any given locality, in inverse proportions to the size of land, it becomes increasingly difficult for those people to grow their own food and starts depending on the areas considered as hinterlands to provide them with food (David and Cecilia, 2003 p. 96)

Urbanization has become more and more closely associated with industrialization, that the absence of one means a weakness in the other. Cities have always been seen as they ideal places to locate industries. As the industries continue to grow, they need to employ more and more workers, and this facilitates the movement of people from the rural areas as they come into the cities in search of jobs into the factories and industries (David and Cecilia, 2003 p. 96).

Just as an example of how urbanization facilitates growth of rural areas, it has been cited in some reports that only a mere 5% of the total population of the United States lived in the cities around the year 1800, but the figure rose to 50% by 1920. This was the period around which America was undergoing urbanization. The same was happening in Europe. Today, about 80% of the population lives in cities and other urban centers. Yet this transition has been as a result of rural areas silently but surely transforming into urban settings (David and Cecilia, 2003 p. 96).

Importance of urban centers to rural health

It is common knowledge that health is an important component in an individual’s life or the life of the larger society as a whole. Health does not merely refer to absence of disease, but refers to a balanced holistic balance and well being socially, physically, spiritually, physiologically and mentally. With this in mind then, we need not say that the health condition of the people in the rural set up is mostly faced with many challenges and obstacles, compared to their urban counterparts, yet they need to keep healthy in order top keep producing food products for the entire nation. In addition, economic impediments, social differences and cultural disparities all com together to make the situation worse, compounded with the fact that some rural areas are greatly isolated and lack a recognition from the legislators. Let us have a look at some of the health situations around a majority of rural areas (American Sociological Society, 1976 p. 3).

Out of the many health practitioners around the world, only about 10% work in the rural areas as compared to a whooping 70% who work in urban setups. This is great contrast considering that the rural population constitutes a quarter of the world’s population (Detlef, 2001 p. 102).

The rural dwellers hardly ever have employer-provided medical cover, unlike their counterparts in the urban areas. This means that access to healthcare services proves to be a challenge for a majority of them bearing in mind that they only earn meager incomes for their hard labor and this little income must be put into meeting basic needs like food (Detlef, 2001 p. 102).

Rural residents are posed with the threat of death from unintentional injuries other than road accidents than their counterparts in the urban areas. This is because of the even the working conditions that they work under. For example they may get injured while working with farm tools and equipment, get infected with tetanus and have no means of getting injected against it (Sana, 2001 p. 13).

More than 20% of rural children live in abject poverty. As such, it is a great challenge for their parents to be able to accord them the much needed health service that other children their ages and who live in the urban areas are exposed to. Rural residents in general are poorer than the urbanites, with per capita income of $7,417 lower than that of urban dwellers. (Nina, Johnson and Lois, 2004 p. 106)

Rural areas are marked with healthcare provide professional the world over. Statistics show that there are over 2,100 health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) in rural areas as compared to only 900 areas in urban settings (Sana, 2001 p. 17).

Drug abuse and tobacco smoking is more rampant in rural areas than in urban areas among the youth. This is because, while urban youths have other sources of entertainment and numerous activities that keep them busy, the rural youth have nothing but idleness and bad company to hang out with. Drug abuse is also rampant among rural youth because the lack information on the dangers of so doing, bearing in mind that even the quality of education in these settings is quite low (Morton, 1996 p. 12)

There are 40 dentists per 100,000 populations in rural settings, compared to 60 dentist per10, 000 in the urban settings. This says that these rural dwellers are not getting enough facilitation for access to proper dental care. (Morton, 1996 p. 12)

Suicide rate among men and children in rural areas is much higher than that of men, women and children in urban areas. What this means is that we are losing men, who are breadwinners for families and children who are the icons for a brighter tomorrow to suicide due to lack of intervention strategies (Thomas, 1984 p. 134).

Payments done to rural hospitals are quite low, compared to the payments made in the urban hospitals for equivalent health services. Although this spells cheaper service access for the rural poor, it also means that the hospitals are not getting enough resources to keep them going. As a matter of fact, over 450 hospitals have shut down in the rural areas over the last 25 years (Douglas, 1999 p. 57).

These statistics and many more are just a glimpse into what the rural folks are losing out in. What then is the role of the urban areas in beefing up support for the rural areas as far as health care is concerned?

To begin with, urban areas are the places where doctors and other health professional are trained. As such, urban areas need to invest in training many personnel and while planning is being done for the whole nation, ensure that a majority of the personnel are deployed into the rural areas to offer these valuable services (Douglas, 1999 p. 58).

Urban areas are also the place where counselors are trained. They need to be empowered to work in rural areas in order to impart life skills on people so that drug abuse cases and suicide can reduce amicably (Nina, 2004 p. 89).

Financial resources, as we have seen in this paper, are channeled from the cities into the rural areas. As such, strategic planning needs to be done, with the rural hospitals in mind in order to ensure that they run smoothly and that they always have a smooth flow of resources like health personnel and drugs (Katharine, 1982 p. 16)

Without saying much, if urban areas are to continue depending on rural areas for food support, then the urban areas must style up to ensure that rural areas are functioning effectively for example by provision of core essential service, in which health is just a tip of the iceberg. (Katharine, 1982 p. 16)


Through the literature review, a few results were gathered and the following specific issues were raised.

Interactions between ancient urban and rural areas

As we have seen from the definition of urban and rural areas, it leaves us with no doubt that these two areas, despite of their diversities, rely on each other for accomplishment of some goals. For example, agricultural products produced in the rural areas and which need further processing, must be transported into the industrialized urban areas for processing. Since there are no food production activities going on in urban areas, rural areas need to provide them with food products for sustenance. The economic benefits that are realized in the urban centers on the other hand are ploughed back into the rural areas, for example through family support by the people working in the urban areas (Richard, 2008 p. 66).

Case study One

Coming to a more specific analysis of the interaction between the urban and the rural, let us have a look at the medieval city settings in the Roman world. This is a case study that focuses on a symbiotic relationship between rural and urban setting. The distinctions between urban and rural in the ancient days were not merely a matter of the physical form, but also an outlook through the administrative hand of governance. According to a group of archeologists working in Roman in the middle age era, an area qualified as urban if it met the following conditions; exhibited defenses, had a well planned street system, had a dense population, had a market, was legally autonomous in that it could govern itself holistically, had a diversified economic base, was religiously differentiated and had a judicial center (Michael, 1977 p. 174).

At around that time, rural areas in Rome were facing some form of modifications in that, there was a need for farmers to become multi-functional, in that they needed to shift focus from small scale to large scale farm management. This way, they were able to adopt relatively modernized methodologies of farming, hence increasing productivity. What this led to eventually was a self-sufficiency policy that brought an overproduction of products. Later on, the systems of farming had to change from ‘productivism’ to post ‘productivism.’ This ensured that there was food security, both for the rural and urban areas, hence alleviating poverty. This means that when there is sustainable food production for both rural and urban inhabitants, reliance on non-agricultural food products goes down, creating a demand for the food products and hence increasing the income of the rural inhabitants. Consequently, this translated to reduced rural-urban migration in search of jobs, ensuring that population distribution was balanced both in the metropolitan cities and in the rural centers. At a closer analysis though, we can comfortably establish that the continued interactions between rural and urban developed a pattern of transformation that gave rise to the cities. To begin with, some urban centers as we know them today were merely pre-industrialized rural settings that got transformed with the coming of industrialization. Moving from the stage of pre-industrialization, they became industrialized, eventually acquiring the status of a fully modernized, urbanized and industrialized city setting. This outlook is as far as economic aspects of rural-urban interactions are concerned (Michael, 1977 p. 177).

Coming to the social aspects of the interactions in the Roman world, there was seen to be a very close relationship between the inhabitants of the rural areas and those in the urban setting. This was proved by the constant visiting patterns by the urban inhabitants into the rural areas to attend functions like annual religious festivities, rites and rituals. On the other hand, people from the rural settings would show up in the urban areas to attend education, training sessions and extension linkages, as well as to access health care services. These forms of social group interactions facilitated growth in terms of facilitating a shift of focus from interaction purely for agricultural purposes, to a more logical outlook on the dynamics of their own needs necessary for growth and development (Mahmoud, 2003 p. 98).

Politically, The Hellenistic Roman urban world shared a lot of interests with the rural world. For example, it is recorder by researchers that in the ancient medieval days, the two setting shared common administrative relationships that oversaw the smooth flow of government budgetary flows. Income generated by the central government within the cities was distributed to the rural areas through interconnected organizations that linked the countryside to the cities. There was also an aspect of authority approval, meaning that before implementation of certain policies in the rural areas, there was need to first get permission from the higher authorities located in the cities where policies were formulated and passed on as legal decision making tools. Ideologically, Romans are known to have shared common ideologies despite their differences in location. This was possible because as the urban areas became modernized, they strived to drag the rural areas along by ensuring that they got information through books, radio, television and advertising (Geyer, 2002 p. 65).

Case study Two

In a contrasting case study, the rural-urban interaction in the Hellenistic Greek world seems to be weak. The first example is drawn from the way the Hellenistic kings seemed to rule and the motives that they had behind accumulation of wealth. While most leaders would seek to increase wealth for the sake of their subjects, these kings simply did not care about development of either rural or urban areas and their sole purpose was to enrich themselves. Whatever wealth they could amass from the rural areas through irrigation or land reclamation went into making themselves the rich even more. To make matters worse these leaders went to the extent of robbing temples, all in the quest to fulfill their selfish desires. While this had one advantage in the sense that it led to the growth of the cities in which the palaces were located, it also meant untold suffering for the rural folks, who never enjoyed the benefits of their work in terms of financial returns (David, 2003 p. 34).

This clearly shows that the urban-rural interactions were weak, what with the inconsideration of the Hellenistic kings that cared less about development issues and instead were out to enrich themselves at the expense of their subjects (David, 2003 p. 34).

Acculturation in Italy, as yet another example of the discrepancy between the rural-urban relations, was biased to a very large scale. How was this possible? It is recorded that the geographical and social-economic boundaries between the urban and the rural are quite noticeable. Culture between the two social groups is highly distinctive. Much of these discrepancies were triggered by the fact that was a great division between the central and southern Campania, and the northern and eastern regions. While one part was exposed to a lot of Greek influence and benefited from a heavy polis presence, the other region had very few Greek contacts and therefore remained with the old rural cultural habits. This meant that while the central and southern areas received advantages of the Greek presence like industrialization and modernization, the northern and eastern areas suffered loss and some sort of barrier to acculturation. Hellenization comes out strongly, characterized by conflict between the Greeks and the Italians. This leads to a hardening of cultural boundaries, as a sign of strong solidarity of one group against ‘invasion, by another. In this case, the Italians as the ones who are rebelling against change which could spell changes in their livelihoods in terms of transforming them from rural-hood to urbanism (Eveline, 2010 p. 43).

Case study Three

This case study focuses on the intense urban-rural interaction in the late antiquity world. When we talk of the antiquity world we are referring to the old ancient days on a more general note. Generally, it has been established that a majority of the cities as we know them today originated from some rural-like forms and only grew into cities through interactions with other more developed towns and cities by an adoption of urbanization and modernization techniques that they could not do without then, as a study into the origin of cities has led us to believe. While man in the ancient past was accustomed to a life of hunting for survival, with time he developed a learning skill, which he developed and utilized to interact with others and with the gods, eventually forming the earliest village (Eveline, 2010 p. 45).

These early developments can be traced into the east in the likes of Mesopotamia, Nineveh and Babylon. Mumford, in his book ‘The City in History’ says that the granary, the library, the store the drain as well as the bank, as they are known today, are a good reflection of what the rural villages looked like and as such, the cities or urban areas are a complete replica of the good old villages. He goes on to suggest that without the village or the rural, there would not be the urban. In the Central Place Theory, he explains that the basic assumptions in the developmental stages of cities are that resources are the same everywhere, meaning that every village or rural setting has the same potential as any other to develop into an urban setting. It is also assumed that villages consist of self-sufficient households that are not dependent on each other and that transportation costs are equal regardless of the direction to be taken and that the costs are also proportional to the distance to be covered (Viswambhar, 2007 p. 73).

With this in mind then, we can see that there is great dependency on the rural areas for the growth and progression of the urban setting, as opposed to case study one that depicts a very interdependent relationship (Viswambhar, 2007 p. 73).

From the case studies above, it is clear that the two settings, no matter how contrasting, cannot survive independently. There must be a form of relationship, whether symbiotic, parasitic or thwarted. In his book ‘Rural-Urban Interaction in the developing world’ Kenneth Lynch on page 17 tells us that a lot countries still depend on the rural areas for survival of their economic aspects. He looked at the rural-urban relations as symbiotic as cities on the other hand are depended on for financial services, information and channels of communication as well as sources of non-agricultural products (Kenneth, 2005 p. 17).

Extent of variation in interactions between rural and urban settings

Despite the above case study that seems to show that there exists a strong relationship in the interaction between rural and urban settings, the strength of the interaction varies from place to place and just to cite an example to prove this, in the Arabian Peninsula, urbanization is rapidly take charge of urban areas, while there is no agrarian change to brag about is taking place in the rural areas (Ravinder, pg 6). This is because, as the urban areas continues to become urbanized and modernized, they also became globalized, allowing themselves to get assimilated into the culture of other countries, including an adoption of eating habits that led to importation of foods instead of supporting the local farmers by buying food from them (Ravinder, 2009 p. 6).

Something else that affects the strength of interaction making it weaker and almost non-existence is the size of a country, according to Porter, 1980. A small sized nation has more interactions between the urban and the rural and development of such a country is much easier and takes place over a relatively shorter period of time. Such interactions are facilitated by the short distance that inhabitants have to cover to and fro the urban areas and vice versa (Kenneth, 2005 p. 52)

The paradox or rural-urban inequality

As earlier mentioned, the size of a nation greatly determines how fast it becomes urbanized. People living away form city centers find themselves being left behind in matters to do with changing lifestyles like housing styles, medical care, clothing, vehicle ownership and a bunch of many other things that define their social, political and economic lives (David, 2003 p. 18).

Differences in the rural-urban interactions are also triggered by differences in human capital. Most of the cases reported indicate that children from the poor rural settings normally find it hard to find well paying employment when they are much older due to the fact that the level of education they are exposed to is also low quality. However, when they happen to be presented with a chance to access high quality education, it goes without saying that they also become viable for the labor market and the quality of life goes high, the effect that schooling has on labor markets becomes significantly irrelevant (Brunn, 2003 p. 56).

The paradox here brings itself out clearly because, while governments advocate for high school enrolment especially in the rural areas, they know just too well that the quality of education does not match that in the urban areas. This means that the children and populations in the rural settings remain in a ‘rat race’ where in an attempt to eradicate poverty they find themselves stuck in the same race year in year out. The effect is especially felt at the family level as opposed to the community level (Herbert, 1982 p. 100).

While it is expected that where there are many thriving markets people should not go without employment, this is not the case in many nations, China, the world’s strongest economy included. Promotion is also supposed to be on the basis of talent and qualification, but those in the rural areas, no matter their qualifications, are not seen to benefits from the proposal of this theory. In fact, in some states, the gap between the rural folks and the urbanites is growing by the day, be it economically, socially or politically. How then can we expect rural discrimination to diminish if these are the thriving conditions left, right and center? (Surinder, 2007 p. 102).

Should we view the relationship between urban and rural entities as necessary and mutually -beneficial, or as exploitative and one -sided?

The relationship between rural and urban areas cannot be belittled or ignored, no matter how insignificant the interaction may seem to be. Needless to say, both rural and urban areas constitute some functional elements that make life what it is in any given region. Cities, as we have seen, cannot survive alone, neither can the countryside achieve much without some support from the cities. Cities for example, need the human resource or labor that comes from the rural areas, while the rural areas on the other hand need the financial capital support that they derive from the cities (Ravinder, 2009 p. 1).

Cities also function as the market base for surplus commodities being produced in the rural areas. In case of export of any surplus, the cities facilitate such arrangements. What of the products that come form the rural indigenous cottage industries? They find their way into the market, both local and international via the city centers. The urban areas and cities on the other hand provides a ground on which policies and rules that govern activities going on in the countryside are formulated (Michael, 1977 p. 55).

As such, the relationship between these two setups is basically a symbiotic one, save for a few instances where research has presented the relationship between the two as merely exploitative, bringing out the urban areas as an exogenous factor that is out to exploit, subdue and take advantage of the indigenous factor (rural area) (Michael, 1977 p. 55).

The changes and variations in the relationship between countryside and the cities are merely a product of the structural transformations in society and not essentially due to a conscious process aimed at weakening the interactions. Over the years, a new concept, colonialism, has made the whole concept of rural-urban interaction even a little bit more complex that necessary. This is because, colonialism has brought out the aspect that cities are a major link between rural areas and the international markets, something that we cannot overlook if planning for rural areas in relation to the rest of the world is to be done (Richard, 2008 p. 66).

When infrastructure is being developed in any given nation, it goes without saying that the major aim of so doing is to have a linkage between the two social divides. However, when the linkage is not done in a manner that leaves no overlaps, then there are chances that neo-colonialism will develop between the rural and the urban, with the urban dominating the rural, as is the case in the Hellenistic Greek (Caroline, 2010 p. 56).

Furthermore, there is a lot that governments can do to strengthen the relationship between urban settings and the rural ones. For example, if marketing, transportation and communications were strengthened, there would be no doubt that both the private and the public agencies would be more than willing to serve the rural areas and as such promote their growth. Planning hence calls for balanced representation of the rural stakeholder. For beneficial development, there is need to have a socio-economic understanding of the benefits that are likely to be derived from such developments, both for the rural and urban settings. There is evidence that suggests that the future of the rural-urban relations has a very strong potential for improvement as there is no one population that can survive without the other. However, stakeholders must first take advantage of the opportunity for such development and poverty development issues (Herbert, 1982 p. 107).

It also must be kept in mind that urbanization is a continuous strong process that cannot be inhibited, especially in the developing nations. Predictions show that in the next 25 years most of the world’s population will be living in the urban centers and since urbanization cannot go beyond 100%, the process will cease for most cities of the world (Herbert, 1982 p. 111).

With this in mind then we cannot afford to throw caution to the wind and simply assume that the rural-urban relations are exploitative or one-sided, save for the few unrepresentative cases within the Greek world.

Chapter Four – Conclusion

The relationship and extent of interaction between urban and rural centers is yet to be established. Nothing much can be said on whether there is an increased or a decreased interaction between the two for reasons mentioned below:

Rural folks and those in the urban areas have intensively different ways, and each of them is at their own level of civilization. Comparative analysis of such distinct settings becomes relatively difficult, bearing in mind that the milestones used for benchmarking the developmental progress for urban setting are slightly or even intensively different. For example, for urbanites, financial development means more to them than to rural folks, the reason being that urban dwellers live all their lives according to their financial power. In rural areas on the other hand, life can be managed through a number of approaches. For example, while in the city one might sleep hungry if they have no money for food, in the rural area one will never go hungry with neighbors around, not to mention vast fields of land that have crops cultivated on them (Mahmoud, 2003 p. 114).

The issue or urban-rural interactions, according to the literature review, has not received much attention from people concerned with the study, mainly geographers. Furthermore, much of the literature available on this topic concentrates too much on the differences between urban and rural settings, rather that the similarities that draw them together. There is now a growing need to shift focus and give the connections between rural areas and the urban ones the attention that they deser


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