Rural states

I spent Christmas in Meridian, Mississippi, which is a city of 40,000 people surrounded by countryside for 60 miles in every direction. My brother and I talked a bit about how rural Mississippi is, which made me wonder whether it was the most rural state.

So I pulled out my 2004 World Almanac when I got home, and looked up the largest city in each American state. Here are the states with the smallest largest cities:


1. Vermont (Burlington; 39,466)
2. West Virginia (Charleston; 51,702)
3. Wyoming (Cheyenne; 53,658)
4. Maine (Portland; 63,882)
5. Delaware (Wilmington; 72,503)
6. North Dakota (Fargo; 91,204)
7. Montana (Billings; 92,008)
8. New Hampshire (Manchester; 108,398)
9. South Carolina (Columbia; 117,394)
10. South Dakota (Sioux Falls; 130,491)

13. Mississippi (Jackson; 180,881)


Admittedly, there are better ways to judge how rural a state is, but the size of a state’s largest city can indicate whether the state has any urbanity at all. In the cases of the first seven or so states on the list, the answer seems to be “no”.

North Dakota and Montana appear to be the most urban-deprived states in the Union. Vermont and Maine have Boston and Montreal nearby; West Virginia has Pittsburgh and D.C.; Wyoming has Denver; Delaware has Baltimore and Philadelphia. For people in North Dakota and Montana, though, it’s a long drive to Denver, Seattle, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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