United States admin level

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Admin level 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
State, District or Territory
District of Columbia N/A Neighborhood tagged as place=suburb
States or territories not listed below
(prototypical US admin_level structure)
N/A[1] County In those several states where these exist,
Civil township
or any Minor civil division
which is a government
(incorporated) Township
(incorporated) Town
Louisiana N/A Parish[2] Unincorporated community Town
Alaska N/A Borough[3] N/A City N/A
New York New York City Borough N/A
N/A County N/A City N/A
Town Village N/A
City of Sherrill N/A
Florida N/A County Reedy Creek Improvement District City N/A
California N/A[4] County N/A Incorporated City
Incorporated Town
Connecticut N/A County[5]
Town City
Michigan[7] N/A County N/A City[8][9] N/A
Charter Township[10]
Village[11] N/A
Minnesota N/A County [12] Township[13] City[14] N/A Neighborhood[15]
Ohio N/A County (details) Township (details) City
N/A "Neighborhood"[16]
Virginia N/A County N/A Town N/A
N/A City[17] N/A Borough[18] N/A
American Samoa N/A Municipality as
Unorganized Atoll
County Village N/A
Guam N/A Municipality as
Northern Mariana Islands N/A Municipality as
One island group (Northern Islands)
Puerto Rico N/A Municipio (Municipality)[21] Barrio (Sub-municipality) and Sector (Section) Ciudad (City)
Pueblo (Town)[22]
United States Virgin Islands N/A Municipality as
N/A Subdistrict Quarter Estate
Specific instances in:
N/A "Independent Cities" of
Baltimore, [23]
Carson City and [24]
St. Louis. [25]
City and County of San Francisco [26]
N/A San Francisco, others[27] N/A

Not all boundaries are administrative

Census Designated Places (CDPs) are boundaries maintained by the United States Department of Commerce's Census Bureau for statistical purposes. CDPs should be tagged boundary=census, ideally without an admin_level=* tag. Originally, many CDPs were imported from TIGER as boundary=administrative + admin_level=8, but the talk-us mailing list reached a consensus to treat them as non-administrative boundaries.[28] Additionally, the Census Bureau has revised its methodology regarding CDPs since 2009, causing many imported boundaries to fall out of date. There is some degree of support for removing the least relevant CDPs from the database, but note that CDPs are relevant in some parts of the country, such as Alaska. While boundary=census remains a useful tag in some circumstances, other Census Bureau definitions, such as "Metropolitan Statistical Area" (MSA) also appear to represent non-administrative boundaries. According to the United States Government (Departments of Labor and Commerce, Executive Office of the President's Office of Management and Budget), "the delineations are intended to provide a nationally consistent set of geographic areas for collecting, tabulating, and publishing federal statistics." Therefore, MSAs and similar entities are not truly administrative boundaries.

So-called "special districts," such as Councils of Governments (COGs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and California's Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs), were proposed to be tagged with boundary=administrative + admin_level=5. If these are entered into OSM, these might be tagged (respectively) boundary=COG, boundary=MPO and boundary=LAFCO, again, ideally without an admin_level=* tag. Currently, New York City is the only boundary=administrative + admin_level=5 to have emerged with wide consensus in the USA.

There is no consensus yet on how to tag Indian reservations.[29] Different reservations have varying levels of interaction with local, state, and federal government agencies. Their borders often cross state lines (in one case, a national border as well). These relationships are perhaps too complex to shoehorn into a hierarchical scheme like admin_level=*. Therefore, one common approach is to tag reservations with either boundary=aboriginal_lands or boundary=protected_area + protect_class=24, omitting the admin_level=* tag in either case.

See also


  1. There was a proposal in 2012 to map councils of governments (COGs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) as boundary=administrative + admin_level=5. It did not gain substantial traction.
  2. Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes in the same way that 48 of the other states of the United States are divided into counties.
  3. Unlike county-equivalents in the other 49 states, Alaska's organized boroughs do not cover the entire land area of the state.
  4. There was a proposal in 2012 to map California's Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs) as boundary=administrative + admin_level=5. It did not gain substantial traction.
  5. Connecticut's court jurisdictions still adhere to the county boundaries, except for Fairfield, Hartford and New Haven, which have been further subdivided into several jurisdictions.
  6. In 1960 Connecticut dissolved its county governments creating a vacuum of power at the regional level. In the 1980s the state established 15 regional councils with authority limited to land use policymaking, infrastructure development, emergency preparedness, and long-term planning.
  7. In Michigan, the state universities are constitutionally autonomous jurisdictions, possessed of a special status somewhat equivalent to that of metropolitan municipality. That is, as bodies corporate, they operate as though they were municipalities, but they have autonomy from legislative and executive control. Each university has a board which is the sole legislative body for the campuses they control. These campuses are independent of all state laws, and under the sole control of the boards. The boards are responsible for all public services, e.g. policing, and fire protection. They often contract with the city they are located in for these services, but all have their own police departments.
  8. In Michigan, townships (including charter townships) and cities are mutually exclusive administrative subdivisions under the county level. No part of a township lies within a city and if the entire township is incorported as a city or annexed to a city, the township ceases to exist in every sense.
  9. In Michigan, a city can be part of more than one county. County boundaries are not adjusted according to city boundaries. There are no independent cities or consolidated city-counties.
  10. In Michigan, a charter township is equal to any other township, it is not an incorporated municipality. The charter in its name refers to the exercise of local options for township government provided by state law.
  11. In Michigan, a village is subordinate to a township and can span more than one township. Villages can also span more than one county.
  12. Portions of some counties are "unorganized" — that is, not a township or city — and are governed by the county board. As such, they have no admin boundary of their own, but will be marked as "holes" in other admin boundaries.
  13. Minnesota's townships were formed from the Congressional townships formed by the Public Land Survey, but have often been modified since then. However, they always remain one county. In Minnesota, townships and cities are mutually exclusive administrative subdivisions under the county level. No part of a township lies within a city and if the entire township is incorporated as a city or annexed to a city, the township ceases to exist in every sense. Cities may sometimes detach land back to surrounding townships, or even be entirely dissolved and become part of a township. NOTE: Township boundaries are not currently entered in OSM.
  14. In Minnesota, a city can be part of more than one county. County boundaries are not adjusted according to city boundaries.
  15. Some cities such as Minneapolis have well-defined neighborhood boundaries that are used by neighborhood organizations.
  16. For neighborhood councils in the largest cities. May or may not correspond to voting wards. Use discretion; smaller cities' neighborhoods may be better served by landuse polygons.
  17. Since 1871, all incorporated cities in Virginia have classified as independent cities.
  18. In Virginia when multiple local governments consolidate to form a consolidated city, the consolidated city may be divided into geographical subdivisions called "boroughs", which may be the same as the existing cities, counties, or portions of such counties. Those boroughs are not separate local governments.
  19. American Samoa is divided into 3 districts (Eastern, Western, Manu'a) and 2 unorganized atolls (Rose Atoll, Swains Island).
  20. CNMI is divided into four municipalities: Islands north of Saipan form the Northern Islands Municipality, although because of volcanic threat, these were evacuated and remain uninhabited. The three main islands of the Southern Islands form the municipalities of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, with uninhabited Aguijan forming part of Tinian municipality.
  21. The Census Bureau defines a Municipio as a "county-equivalent," similar to parish in Louisiana or borough in Alaska.
  22. An urban core with a population of 50,000 or above is considered a ciudad (city), while one with under 50,000 inhabitants is termed pueblo (town).
  23. Established by the Constitution of Maryland, Baltimore is not part of any county and is the largest independent city in the United States.
  24. The Consolidated Municipality of Carson City is an independent city, meaning it has effectively subsumed Ormsby County, which no longer exists.
  25. In an act of "urban secession," St. Louis separated from St. Louis County in 1877, becoming an independent city and limiting its own political boundaries.
  26. San Francisco is "both" a county (political division) of California, in addition to being an incorporated city, which includes seemingly redundant bureaucracy in some cases. For example, it has both County Sheriff deputies as well as City Police officers, each of which serve distinct legal purposes, but which of course, support each other and act with mutual aid when necessary.
  27. See Consolidated city-county which both lists and describes subtle distinctions.
  28. See threads beginning at: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]
  29. See threads beginning at: [8] [9] [10] [11]