As in many other countries, official measures of urbanization in Brazil have been unable to properly distinguish spatial patterns of rural and urban organization. The literature discusses various classification systems and recognizes the existence of a “rural-urban continuum”, as well as theoretical frameworks and alternative categorizations that aim to look beyond the urban-rural dichotomy. However, there are no practical solutions to properly formalize or operationalize them, especially at the micro-level such as census tracts. We propose a methodology that assumes a measurable rural-urban continuum. The “Urban Gradient Index” uses simple and comprehensive variables to quantify the degree to which a certain area is urban based on demographic and spatial features. We build it at the level of census tracts for both Brazil and the Belo Horizonte Metropolitan Region to verify consistency at distinct aggregation levels. Results indicate that the index provides a much more nuanced picture of settlement patterns, unveiling a spatial gradient between rural and urban in distinct spatial extents. It offers an advantage over the traditional measure “degree of urbanization” by revealing “hidden ruralities” in predominantly urban areas that require specific territorial planning and public policy interventions. Keywords: Urban Gradient, Rural-Urban Continuum, Territorial Planning, Belo Horizonte Metropolitan Region, Brazil.

Author Biographies

Alisson Flávio Barbieri, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte (MG), Brazil

PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2005). Full Professor at the Department of Demography at the Federal University of Minas Gerais; Researcher at the Center for Development and Regional Planning (CEDEPLAR/UFMG); and Member of the Scientific Committee of Rede Clima (MCTI). He was Research Scholar at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University; Visiting Scholar at the Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;. Associate Faculty of the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins University (JHU); Professor of the Master's Program in Sustainable Development Practices at UFRRJ; and Director of the Steering Committee of the Population and Environment Research Network (Columbia University, New York). He has acted as coordinator or researcher in several national and international research projects. He has experience in the area of Demography, with an emphasis on spatial distribution of the population, working mainly on the following topics: population mobility (internal and international), human dimensions of global environmental changes, demography of disasters, demographic dynamics in the Amazon and in the urban environment, planning regional and urban.

Marden Barbosa de Campos, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte (MG), Brazil

PhD in Demography from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (2010). He is currently an adjunct professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais and a permanent professor at the Graduate Program in Sociology at UFMG. He is coordinator of the Demography of Indigenous Peoples Working Group of the Brazilian Association for Population Studies. He worked for more than 15 years at the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, having participated in the planning, collection and analysis of two national demographic censuses and a population count. He coordinated or participated in the collection and elaboration team of several researches of the institute. He is currently head of the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy and Human Sciences at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).
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Painéis laterais

Diego Rodrigues Macedo, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Juiz de Fora (MG), Brazil

PhD in Ecology - Conservation and Management of Wild Life (UFMG, 2013). Since 2016 he is an Adjunct Professor at the Department of Geography and at the Graduate Programs in 'Geography' and 'Analysis and Modeling of Environmental Systems' at the Institute of Geosciences at UFMG. He has experience in the field of Physical Geography, Water Resources, Landscape Ecology, Geoecology, Biomonitoring, Geographic Information Systems, Spatial Statistics and Territorial Planning. CNPq Productivity Scholarship - Physical Geography.

Rodrigo Coelho de Carvalho, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Juiz de Fora (MG), Brazil

PhD (2017) in Demography by the Center for Development and Regional Planning of the Faculty of Economic Sciences of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (CEDEPLAR/FACE/UFMG). He has experience in the areas of Demography and Geography, especially in the themes of spatial distribution of the population, migrations, urban and regional studies, spatial and socioeconomic analysis. As of 2007, he began to act as a consultant in the public and private sector in the preparation of socioeconomic studies and diagnoses, Environmental Impact Studies (EIA), Environmental Impact Reports (RIMA), environmental technical reports, production of maps, demographic projections, among other works. In 2017 and 2018, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Public Policy and Human Rights in Health and Sanitation group (PPDH) at the René Rachou Institute / Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ-MG). In 2022, he assumed the position of substitute adjunct professor in the Department of Geography at the Institute of Geosciences at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (IGC/UFMG). He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Graduate Program in Demography at CEDEPLAR / FACE / UFMG (PNPD / CAPES scholarship holder).

Reinaldo Onofre dos Santos, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Juiz de Fora (MG), Brazil

PhD in Demography (CEDEPLAR-UFMG). He is currently an adjunct professor at the Department of Geosciences at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora. His main topics of interest are: spatial distribution of the population, urban and regional analysis, territorial planning, study of multi-state populations, demographic analysis techniques, analysis techniques in migration, production of indicators and evidence-based management.


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How to Cite
BARBIERI, Alisson Flávio et al. URBAN GRADIENT. Mercator, Fortaleza, v. 22, may 2023. ISSN 1984-2201. Available at: <http://www.mercator.ufc.br/mercator/article/view/e22008>. Date accessed: 06 june 2023. doi: https://doi.org/10.4215/rm2023.e22008.