Urban area is a common English translation of the Swedish term tätort. The official term in English, used by Statistics Sweden, is, however, locality. There are 1,940 localities in Sweden (2005). They could be compared with census-designated places in the United States.
A tätort in Sweden has a minimum of 200 inhabitants, and may be a city, town or larger village. Urban areas referred to as cities/towns (stad) for statistical purposes have a minimum of 10,000 inhabitants. However, since 1971, the term "stad" is no longer in use as a judicial concept in Sweden.
Up until the beginning of the 20th century only the cities were regarded as urban areas. The built-up area and the municipal entity were normally almost congruent. Urbanization and industrialization created, however, many new settlements without formal city status. New suburbs grew up just outside city limits, being de facto urban but de jure rural. This was of course a statistical problem. The census of 1910 introduced the concept of "densely populated localities in the countryside". The term tätort (literally "dense place") was introduced in 1930. The municipal amalgamations placed more and more rural areas within city municipalities, which was the other side of the same problem. The administrative boundaries were in fact not suitable for defining rural and urban populations. From 1950 rural and urban areas had to be separated even within city limits, as e.g. the huge wilderness around Kiruna had been declared a "city" in 1948. From 1965 only non-administrative localities are counted, independently of municipal and county borders. In 1971 city was abolished as a type of municipality.
Urban areas in the meaning of tätort are defined independently on the division into counties and municipalities, and are defined solely according to population density. In practice, most references in Sweden are to municipalities, not specifically to towns or cities, which complicates international comparisons. Most municipalities contain many localities (up to 26 in Kristianstad Municipality), but some localities are, on the other hand, multimunicipal ; Stockholm urban area is spread over 11 municipalities.
When comparing the population of different cities, the urban area (tätort) population is to prefer ahead of the population of the municipality. The population of e.g. Stockholm should be accounted as ~1.2 million rather than the ~800,000 of the municipality, and Lund rather ~75,000 than ~110,000.
Data are computed by Statistics Sweden every five years. The latest data are as of 31 December 2005. Then the total population of the urban areas (or localities) in Sweden was 7,631,952 on an area of 5,286.23 km², which gives an average population density of 1,444/km².
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