Use the following links to find sites by category.

You can also gather rural data using other methods.

Learn more about VISTA and AmeriCorps programs and the Conservation Legacy collaborative graduate program with Michigan Technological University

Quick Rural Data

These data resources were put together to help people, and especially VISTA members, working in rural areas quickly find information. An original version of this document was tested and refined by VISTAs serving on the Western Hardrock Watershed Team. Based on user comments this sheet has only links and a limited amount of explanation about each data source. Each link connects to pages that contain most, if not all, of the 50 states and data are available at the county level or smaller. The purpose is to provide a quick, first look at local information, not to provide detailed data sets.


Employment and Economics

County and Zip Code Business Patterns: private employment. (Follow these instructions to navigate through the site. The census server can be slow and you may end up with request rejected. Hit the browser back and try again until you get through. Note: there is more than one way to get this data.)

Social Security Payments    

Median income by census tract (plus more data).

Living wage. Includes poverty statistics, average wage by employment type and a breakdown of living expenses.

Employment sets that include public employees

Housing Data – Building Permits by county

Income by Zip Code – this data set closely follows the format of and definitions used by federal income tax forms.

Distressed and underserved census tracts information

You can quickly find Distressed or Underserved Nonmetropolitan Middle-Income Geographies at

You can also get the annual List of Distressed or Underserved Nonmetropolitan Middle-Income Geographies by going to and typing “underserved” into the search area.

Utility costs.  Good information, but not local, only state by state.



Migration patterns, change in population, seasonal homes. Even though a map shows up, you have to click on “Map” on the left hand side to get a clickable map. Charts is also a useful link to look at changes over time. (Follow these instructions to navigate through the site.)

Some easy to use statistics.  First click on your state and then select your county. A short set of instructions is here.

American Factfinder: An easy way to locate census data.

Children (lots of data here)


Housing data is listed in many places on the web, this site is based on census data and it ties in income data and distressed/underserved information. Type in a specific address to get census data for that census tract where the address is located.


County and zip code level data on various environmental indicators. Limited ability to do analysis.

Forest Statistics:   Use EVALIDator as the tool. 

(Follow these instructions to navigate through the site.)

Forest Service Recreation Data. Click on the "Proceed to the NVUM Results application ..." link in the middle of the page.

Bureau of Land Management Public Statistics/

and their geocommunicator site (read the site alteration notice to find out about state information)

Energy Infrastructure

Use the U.S. Energy Mapping System (center of the page linked below) to get details on a wide range of energy infrastructure locations:

Average Weather

Soils: The Web Soil Survey



County Health Statistics

Medicare – Medicaid Data (The CMS data navigator)

USDA social statistics – food availability and more in the upper left hand corner.

Although the URL says “obesity”, these factsheets have more than obesity.

Community Health Indicators


The USDA Economic Research Service Rural Classifications web page. All sorts of data on type of rural county, a natural amenities score (that assumes you like warm winters), poverty, education, employment and more. Many links to take you through the well-designed site.

USDA Atlas of Rural and Small Town America: Information on general demographics, agriculture, veterans, and more. has school, assessment, and real estate information, although it is not necessarily complete.

Agriculture Statistics



If you have suggestions about other good sources of information that can be added to this list contact Blair Orr at


This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, McIntire Stennis project under Grant Number 1001483. Our list of sites has an emphasis on data useful for forested counties as this was a primary intent of the funding, although we believe that it is generally valuable for rural counties.