The state of Bihar, in India, has an estimated population density of 1,307 humans per square kilometer even though 89% of the population lives in rural areas. How much more people could inhabit a rural region if every piece of land was used in land-efficient agriculture with modern or near future technology?

The land in question is extremely fertile, much more than even the chernozem in Ukraine, and the population has access to more than enough modern fertilizers and irrigation. Furthermore, due to cultural reasons, the vast majority of the population works in agriculture, meaning they can use labour intensive systems such as polyculture and integrated aquaculture.

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    $\begingroup$ Do they just have to rely on the sun's light and heat, or can they beef-up the system with alternate forms of energy? If so, then is vertical building allowed and will only the Earth's surface area be counted, not the area of each floor? $\endgroup$ May 18, 2021 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ If they have modern efficient agriculture they don't have many people in rural areas, because there's nothing for them to do. If they have many people in rural areas this means that they do not have modern efficient agriculture; pre-modern agriculture required a lot of workers. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 18, 2021 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ OP did specify that they could use labor intensive agriculture methods, which can’t be automated very easily and need more workers. $\endgroup$
    – Mrpenguin
    May 18, 2021 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ I think you (or whoever is calling Bihar rural) may be stretching the definition of rural well beyond its elastic limit :-) @AlexP: In the modern world, there is plenty to do in rural areas. For instance, I telecommute to various software development jobs, located as far apart as San Jose and Switzerland. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    May 18, 2021 at 4:23
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    $\begingroup$ At a certain point, if you add more people to the "rural area," it stops being rural and starts being urban. That's true even if we don't all agree on a specific threshold. Can you elaborate on what qualities you want to pinpoint the emergency of? $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    May 18, 2021 at 5:14

3 Answers 3


Generally speaking, any self-sufficient inhabited region will have a concentrated population area (from a village up to a fortress or city) surrounded by lightly populated agricultural areas. If I remember correctly, each person on average requires between half an acre of productive land (for a purely vegetarian diet) to up to two and a half acres of land (for a meat-heavy diet). That amount of good land in a decent climate that will produce the approximately 2000 calories per day that a human needs. If the soil is poor or the climate is cold, that would have to be increased; poorer soil and colder climates produce fewer calories per acre, and colder climates increase calorie consumption.

This implies that the maximal density for rural, agricultural region would be something on the order of a sparse suburban neighborhood: each family of four needing two to ten acres of land in agricultural production to meet their own basic needs, without much left over. And note that this isn't accounting for farm animals like horses or oxen, which have their own separate calorie requirements. Of course, this density could be compacted some by calorie-dense foods (like rice or maize), or by some sci-fi genetic engineering that increased the sunlight-to-calorie conversion capacities of plants. And as a rule large industrial/commercial farms produce calories more efficiently than small family farms, but you get the drift...


Rural isn't a definition so much as it's an idea

A quick joke: A farmer wants the most efficient sheep pen possible. It must hold the most sheep for the least amount of fencing. The engineer says it's a rectangle because sheep are rectanglularish and so the most sheep can be put into the pen. The physicist says it's a circle because that maximizes area with the least circumference, minimizing fence cost. The mathematician, on the other hand, steps up, quietly draws a circle around his feet and proudly proclaims, "I declare everything outside this circle to be the pen." Why is the joke important? because this is the kind of answer you're about to get.

The U.S. Census Bureau has a remarkably practical definition of "Rural."

For the average American, rural is an abstract concept of rolling hills and farmland rather than a concrete definition. Thus, it can be a difficult task trying to define the term "rural" and an even harder task trying to explain it.

The Census Bureau defines rural as any population, housing, or territory NOT in an urban area.

OK, so what's "Urban?"

Today, "urban areas" consist of two types of geographies:

• "Urbanized Areas" have a population of 50,000 or more.
• "Urban Clusters" have a population of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000.

The problem with defining words like "urban" and "rural" by population density is that population density is variable. Really variable. In one square kilometer you might have 20 people. In a second, you might have 2,000 people. A square kilometer is a really big chunk of realestate, so both can be considered rural.

What the U.S. Census (and, by extension, the U.S. government, as many if not all departments use the Census' definition) did was define the smallest geometry. In other words, what's everything that's NOT rural, because "rural" is going to define the vast, vast, vast majority of land everywhere other than on Trantor.

This is important for you, too, because the vast, vast, vast majority of your land is rural (or wilderness). So, the real question is, "What's urban?"

If you define (in your world) "urban" as any small location filled with people and buildings containing merchants and more than a couple of families, then you've won — because everything else is rural.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice joke btw, lol. Idk u seems to be capable to do so and add that to the answer agroculture land plus industrial land devide by number io people, that will give what op asks, ask definition rural and urban was more comment sectiin thing, and average density of poulation and land claimed by that population is the as low evenly spread ruralish setting can go. As more dense than that and it means starvatiin and all that stuff $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    May 19, 2021 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg But that decision is arbitrary and changes with each person new to the area or exiting the area. That's why I answered the way I did. There isn't a number anyone can come up with today that would mean anything tomorrow. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 19, 2021 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ My intencion is only to help to improve answer on wb, not interested in a discusion. It directly stated "land-efficient agriculture with modern" - so todays situation can be part of llystration. In contrary I do not notice anything with indicates OP asking on definition urban rural as for modern time and in usa, it can be a subject of change in future as well, besides the fact it wasen't asked at all, no matter how one reads the q. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    May 19, 2021 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg You're not improving my answer. I'm merely explaining how "rural" is defined such that it makes sense - and I'm sure other countries use their own definitions. If you're not fond of my answer, you're always welcome to write your own.... $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 19, 2021 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ I liked u post, it is interesting, (really man I can't write too much, I'm under mod surveillance), but if converting a post to an answer isn't improving, then what is. I'm on tablet, can't write too much atm, I was certain u capable, but okay, sorry for botherng. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    May 19, 2021 at 17:45

For the US anything less than 1000 people per square mile can be rural, down to 1 person per square mile, lower than that it is considered wilderness.

BUT a place with 500 people per square mile can also be urban, it is also based on the total number of people, a settlement with less than 2500 individuals is considered rural regardless of density.


Keep in mind this can vary quite a lot from country to country.


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