Population;Nature and the environment

Population and land area in urban settlements1 January 2013


About the statistics


Name and topic

Name: Population and land area in urban settlements
Topic: Population

Responsible division

Division for Population Statistics

Definitions of the main concepts and variables

Urban settlement:

A cluster of buildings shall be registered as an urban settlement if it is inhabited by at least 200 persons.

The distance between the buildings should normally not exceed 50 metres, but for some space-demanding building categories - such as apartment buildings, industrial buildings, offices / commercial buildings, schools, hospitals etc. - the distance can be increased to 200 metres.

Adjacent built-up and constructed areas, such as parks, sports facilities and industrial areas, should be part of the urban settlement.

Building clusters with at least 5 commercial buildings or 5 residential buildings are included up to a distance of 400 metres from the urban settlement core.

Urban settlements are geographical areas with dynamic boundaries. Thus the number of urban settlements and their boundaries will change over time, depending on construction activity and changes of resident population.

The delimitation of the urban settlements is independent of the administrative boundaries.

Standard classifications

A standard classification of the urban settlements is: 200 - 1 999 residents 2 000 - 19 999 residents 20 000 - 99 999 residents 100 000 or more residents

Administrative information

Regional level

Besides statistics of urban settlements the statistics give figures of residents in densely and sparsely populated areas by basic statistical unit and municipality..

Frequency and timeliness


International reporting

Not relevant



The code for urban settlement and sparse population will be stored on the files over Norwegian residents 1 January each year.


Background and purpose

Urban settlements are regional delimitations that can describe the urban development in Norway. The dicotomy of sparsely and densely populated areas is useful in analysis describing social, environmental and demographic variations.

The term urban settlements is used in Statistics Norway since the Population Census in 1960. The original definition is, with a few modifications, used in all the censuses since 1960.

Since 1960 to 2001 population statistics for urban settlements has been elaborated in connection with the censuses each 10 years.

Since 1990 the statistics are elaborated per 1 January each year. A new method for automatic delimitation of the urban settlements has been used since 1999. Allthough the definition of urban settlements remains the same, the statistics will differ slightly due to the new method. Figures referring to new and old method should not be compared.

In 2013, Statistics Norway introduced a new method for defining urban settlement boundaries. The urban settlements statistics are still based on information from the Central Population Register and the Ground property register, and it is still the distance between buildings that determines what areas are defined as an urban settlement. But the new method gave a more accurate delimitation, where the outer boundary in most cases will follow the boundary of roads and built-up elements. The more precise delimitation was made possible by using Statistics Norway’s delimitation of land use map.

Users and applications

The statistics is mainly used by civil administration (ministries, directorates, county- and municipality administrations) as well as for research purposes. Population in urban settlements is used in many analysis as an important variable in social, environmental and demographic studies.

Equal treatment of users

No external users have access to the statistics and analyses before they are published and accessible simultaneously for all users on ssb.no at 08 am. Prior to this, a minimum of three months' advance notice is given inthe Statistics Release Calendar.

Coherence with other statistics

The international recommendations and definitions are closely related to the Norwegian definition. The most important difference is that the distance between the buildings should not exceed 200 metres in the international definition, whereas the criterion is 50 metres in the Norwegian. In the nordic definition deviation from the 200 metre limit is allowed.

Statistics Norway also produce land use statistics for urban settlements.

Legal authority

Statistics Act, §§ 2-1, 2-2, 3-2

EEA reference

Not relevant



The population is persons registered as residents in Norway. The observation unit is person.

Data sources and sampling


The main data sources are the Central Population Register, the national register of Ground, Addresses and Buildings (Matrikkelen) and Statistics Norway’s delimitation of land use.

Not relevant

Collection of data, editing and estimations

Not relevant

Not relevant

The statistic is estimated by counting the number of persons who belong to urban or rural settlement.

Seasonal adjustment

Not relevant


If a table consists of three or fewer units and disclosing these units can lead to identification of individuals, the figure is rounded up or left empty.

Comparability over time and space

As mentioned (2.1) there have been some small changes in the definition of urban settlements since 1960. During the period 1990 to 1998 the statistics have been elaborated on the basis of information from the municipalities own registration in the GAB-register. Since 1999 (expect of 2001 and 2010) the delimitation will be done by Statistics Norway using an automatic method (GIS). Data should not be compared unless the method is the same.

In 2013 the method was revised to give a more precise delimitation. The change involves a break in the time series. The area of urban settlements declined, and the number of inhabitants increased, leading to 16 percent higher population density.

Accuracy and reliability

Sources of error and uncertainty

Not relevant

Not relevant

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The sources of error are mainly connected to the quality and completeness in the registers used. By merging the Central Population Register and the GAB register(Matrikkelen), each individual gets coordinates for their reisident. Thus, the key for the merge which is the numeric address, must be identical in the two registers.


Not relevant