Lists & Structure of Governments

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Population of Interest- Municipalities and Townships

The 36,011 sub-county general-purpose governments enumerated in 2007 include 19,492 municipal governments and 16,519 town or township governments. These two types of governments are distinguished primarily by the historical circumstances surrounding their incorporation. In many states, most notably in the Northeast, municipal and township governments have similar powers and perform similar functions. The scope of governmental services provided by these two types of governments varies widely from one state to another, and even within the same state. The area served by municipal and town or township governments may overlap in 11 states, as noted below.

As defined for census statistics on governments, the term "municipal governments" refers to political subdivisions within which a municipal corporation has been established to provide general local government for a specific population concentration in a defined area, and includes all active government units officially designated as cities, boroughs (except in Alaska), towns (except in the six New England states, and in Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin), and villages. This concept corresponds generally to the "incorporated places" that are recognized in Census Bureau reporting of population and housing statistics, subject to an important qualification--the count of municipal governments in this report excludes places that are currently governmentally inactive.

Table showing the number of municipalities and townships and other governments in the U.S. (Local Governments and Public School Systems by Type and State: 2007)

About Township Governments

Town or township governments vary widely between states, and sometimes even within the same state, in the scope of services they provide. Thus, some town or township governments provide a wide range of public services, whereas some town or township governments provide only a limited range of public services.

Overlapping areas:

Twenty (20) states have town or township governments.

In 11 of those states, the areas served by municipal governments and town or township governments may overlap. All municipal governments in Indiana, and some, but not all, municipalities in 10 other town or township states (Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, and Vermont) operate within territory that is served also by town or township governments.

In the remaining nine town or township states (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin), there is no geographic overlapping of these two kinds of units.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Lists & Structure of Governments | 1 (800) 242-2184 | |  Last Revised: May 31, 2012