United States admin level

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Administrative boundaries delineate levels of government, displayed as differently-rendered boundary lines, among other uses (see this regarding capital, heritage). The United States (US) Constitution's Tenth Amendment makes local government in the US a matter of state law, whereas the District of Columbia, Territories and Commonwealths are governed by federal law from the US Congress, distinct from states. As a result, the 50 states have a wide variety of administrative structures, each is unique, though nearly all start with a similar subdivisional level: 48 of 50 states have an administrative subdivision called "county." (Lousiana's "parishes" and Alaska's "boroughs" are agreed to be "county equivalents." In Rhode Island, "county" nearly vanishes as an administrative subdivision, existing largely as a geographic region, though Rhode Island counties are in OSM tagged boundary=administrative for "minor" administrative reasons. Connecticut, similar to Rhode Island in that its counties are vestigal, and to some degree Massachusetts have unusual county structures, though both are agreed to have counties across the whole of both these states, see details below). In non-state Territories and Commonwealths, "municipality" serves this subdivisional purpose, such municipalities have different names in each Territory and Commonwealth. Below county (and township where it exists) in the admin_level=* hierarchy of states, incorporated municipalities include "city," "town" and "village." Beyond this prototypical structure (and broadly speaking), some regional generalizations emerge: found in about one-third of states (most Midwestern states, some New England states) is a government "between" county and city called "township," while in New England, governments tend toward weak-county / strong-town. The US Department of Commerce's Census Bureau re-categorizes these administrative subdivisions every five years, with OSM usually aligning, though sometimes diverging: exceptions are noted below due to slightly differing definitions and/or OSM consensus that has emerged. Note that the Census Bureau tends to "make everything a county" (or county equivalent), whereas OSM strives to more strictly denote things "as they actually are."

Instructions: in the US, tag a truly administrative / government boundary relation with boundary=administrative and admin_level=* where the value of admin_level=* (4 through 10) is guided by this table and wiki. Find the row with the state, District, Territory or Commonwealth in question (if not found, use "prototypical"), then find the administrative subdivision in question across that row. The number from the top of the resulting column is the value of admin_level=*. Quality assure (test/check) here.

"Quicker, easier" approach: you may wish to see also United States/Boundaries, a novice-friendlier, more descriptive, less prescriptive wiki to accompany this one.

admin_level=* 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
State, District, Territory
or Commonwealth
District of Columbia[1] N/A N/A[2] N/A Washington Ward (there are eight) Neighborhood tagged as place=suburb
The prototypical[3] state
admin_level=* structure
for states not listed below:
N/A[4] County In states where these exist[5],
Civil township
or any Minor civil division (MCD)
which is a government.
See Township (Civil township)
(incorporated) City[6]
(incorporated) Town
(in some states)
(incorporated) Village
(in some states)
Alaska N/A Borough[7] N/A City[8] N/A Neighborhood
California N/A[9] County N/A (incorporated) City[10]
(incorporated) Town
(synonymous by law)
In Orange County cities where these exist,
"Planning Area"
(sometimes unofficially called "Village"),
as defined by a city.
In cities or towns where these exist,
though landuse=residential
+ name=* may be effective or preferred
Connecticut N/A [11] Regional COG[12] N/A Town[13] City[14]
In towns where these exist,
Florida N/A County Central Florida Tourism Oversight District
in flux as of 2023
Disney v. DeSantis litigation
Hawaii N/A County[16] N/A
Illinois N/A County Township[17]
(incorporated) Town
Louisiana N/A Parish[19] N/A City
In cities or towns where these exist,
In cities or towns where these exist,
Maine N/A County N/A City
Plantation (incorporated)
Township (unincorporated)[20]
Suburb (of a city)
Village (in a township)
Neighborhood (if there's an organized neighborhood association)
Massachusetts N/A County[21] N/A Town Precinct N/A
N/A County N/A City Ward
(Boston has Districts and Wards)
Michigan[22] N/A County N/A City[23][24] N/A
Charter Township[25]
Village[26] N/A
Minnesota N/A County [27] Township[28]
City[29] N/A Neighborhood[30]
Mississippi N/A County N/A City[31][32]. N/A
Nebraska N/A County Township
Nevada N/A County Township[33] City N/A
New Hampshire N/A County[34] N/A Town
Unincorporated Township
Organized Gore, Grant, Purchase, Location
N/A County N/A City
Ward N/A
New Jersey[35] N/A County N/A Borough
Ward (Newark has five) N/A
New York New York City Borough N/A Community Board or
Community District
N/A County City Ward, district, precinct N/A
Town[36] Village[37] N/A
Hamlet, City of Sherrill N/A
Ohio N/A County (details) Township (details) City
N/A "Neighborhood"[38]
Pennsylvania N/A County N/A City
Town (Bloomsburg)
N/A Neighborhood (Pittsburgh)
Planning Analysis Section (Philadelphia)
Rhode Island N/A County[40][41] N/A City
South Dakota N/A County [42] Township[43] City[44]
Community Improvement District[45]
Ward Neighborhood[47]
Homeowner's Associations (both within cities and outside of cities)
Ward Subdivisions (where those exist)[48]
Tennessee Grand Division[49] County N/A City
Utah N/A County Metro township[50] City
Vermont N/A County N/A Town In towns where these exist,
incorporated Village [52]
City [53] District Ward
Gore [54] N/A
Virginia N/A County N/A Town
Unincorporated community
(colloquially called "town,"
but legally distinct),
might be entered as a node
N/A City[55] (all are
Independent Cities)
Wisconsin N/A County Town[56] City
American Samoa N/A Municipality[57] as District County Village N/A
N/A Municipality
as Unorganized Atoll
Guam N/A Municipality as
Northern Mariana Islands N/A Municipality[58]
as Island,
Island group
Puerto Rico N/A Municipio (Municipality)[59] N/A N/A Barrio (Ward) [60] Sector or Sub-barrio (Section or Village) [61]
United States Virgin Islands N/A Municipality as
N/A Subdistrict[62] Quarter Estate
United States Minor Outlying Islands[63] N/A
State with Consolidated city-county
N/A Consolidated city-county
(the CCC's County)
N/A the CCC's City
(identical to its county)
Specific instances of ICs in
N/A Independent Cities (ICs)
Saint Louis[66]
Carson City[67]

Native American Indian reservations

There is emerging consensus on how to tag United States/American Indian reservations.[68] Different reservations have varying levels of interaction with local, state, and federal governments. These boundaries often cross state lines (in the case of the Akwesasne Kanien'kehá:ka, a national border as well). These relationships are too complex to logically shoehorn into a hierarchical scheme like admin_level=*. A preferred approach is to tag these with boundary=aboriginal_lands, omitting any admin_level=* tag. (The tag combination boundary=protected_area + protect_class=24 is an older, discouraged method still found in OSM). There are uses of admin_level=* with these, for example, there are admin_level=7 Districts found at the Tohono O'odham Nation, whereas the Nation itself is not tagged with admin_level=* (of value 6 or any other value). Similar are Agency subdivisions of the Navajo Nation, also tagged admin_level=7. This might imply these Districts or Agencies "subordinate to" a "next level up" in the hierarchy (of Pima, Pinal and/or Maricopa or other Counties, or Arizona, New Mexico, Utah or the USA), though in reality, such assumptions should not necessarily be made without a full understanding of context.

A complication are state recognized tribes in the US, as individual sovereign states recognize these tribes while the (federal) US Bureau of Indian Affairs does not. Also, specific distinctions should respect the unique entities of Hawaiian home land, Alaska Native tribal entities, Pueblo, Oklahoma's Tribal Jurisdictional Areas (a subset of Oklahoma's Tribal Statistical Areas) and Off-reservation trust land. In the Navajo Nation there is a possibly subordinate jurisdiction known as a Chapter house (Áłah nidaʼadleeh dah bighan; while there are over 100 of these and they've existed for about a century, "input given to the delegates during such meetings is not legally binding"). Wikipedia states "tribal sovereignty is a form of parallel sovereignty within the U.S. constitutional framework, constrained by but not subordinate to other sovereign entities", where a map of the contiguous US (lower 48 states) with reservation lands excluded displays. In that light, admin_level=2 or even no admin_level=* may be appropriate on these (called "First Nations" in Canada, to give a neighboring flavor to the semantics). Several tagging solutions have been proposed, many have challenges. A "case-by-case" approach has emerged, allowing "what the local people say about their land" to evolve into many different approaches. This is often a single boundary to represent "the land and the people" (together), tagged boundary=aboriginal_lands, with additional specific tagging on any specific datum regarding language and other local tagging practices. Other possibilities could include multiple (multi)polygons, and/or "a node to represent a village," or many others. Again, it is best practice for OSM to represent what the local practice is as specified by "the people of the land."

Approved is boundary=aboriginal_lands, though boundary=protected_area + protect_class=24 (omitting any admin_level=* in either case) was used to mean the same thing. A 2019 discussion and vote concluded for the two-tag convention to be complemented with the single tag boundary=aboriginal_lands, both receive identical Carto rendering.

Regions in the USA

Some assert that "regions" of the United States of America exist, as they are frequently referred to by its citizens, though strictly speaking they are geographic (and possibly cultural) regions, not administrative entities in their own right. Hence these should not be assigned admin_level=3. There are four major regions, colloquially referred to as "the Northeast," "the Midwest," "the South" and "the West:" respectively,  Northeastern_United_States,  Midwestern_United_States,  Southern_United_States and  Western_United_States (all containing further subdivisions above the state level). See  List_of_regions_of_the_United_States.

Not all boundaries are administrative

Census Designated Places (CDPs) are boundaries maintained by the Census Bureau (a division of the United States Department of Commerce) for statistical purposes. CDPs should be tagged boundary=census, ideally without an admin_level=* tag. In 2009, 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.[69] 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 OSM, but note that CDPs are relevant in some parts of the country, such as Alaska, where they are useful to further subdivide the Unorganized Borough by mutual agreement between the Census Bureau and the state of Alaska.

While boundary=census remains useful in some circumstances, other Census Bureau definitions, such as "Metropolitan Statistical Area" (MSA) should not be entered into OSM as boundaries. According to the US 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 (μSAs, CSAs, PSAs, CBSAs...) are statistical, not administrative boundaries. (See also Relations are not categories.) Data consumers that need to filter features by statistical area can cross-reference Wikidata, as demonstrated by this Sophox query for cities within the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland CSA.

So-called special districts, like Councils of Governments (COGs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and California's Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs), were proposed in 2012 to be tagged boundary=administrative + admin_level=5. However, these proposals did not gain substantial consensus, so please do not enter these with such tags. Also, boundary=school is found on school district boundaries, though it is quite rare: a recent taginfo shows boundary=administrative makes up about 88% of millions of OSM's boundary=* tags, yet there are fewer than 20 boundary=school (or boundary=School) tags in all of OSM.

The Census Bureau offers a helpful-to-OSM recognition of five local government types in the US. Three are general-purpose governments: county (and "county equivalent"), township and municipal governments. The other two are special-purpose governments: special district governments and school district governments. OSM recognizes via consensus that the first three are tagged boundary=administrative + admin_level=6, 7, 8 (respectively). The latter two are not tagged boundary=administrative, but rather are tagged as in the previous paragraph (that is, not at all, perhaps with an unusual tag that emerges like boundary=COG or only very rarely).

Consolidated city-counties, Independent cities, Agglomeration of counties, Divisions

40 Consolidated city-counties (CCCs) are found across the US: in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin. With the exception of New York City, all CCCs span a single county. Even with many subtle distinctions in how CCCs differ from one another, OSM tags these admin_level=6, there is no convention for single-county CCCs to be "tagged twice" with two coterminous relations tagged boundary=administrative: one with admin_level=6, another with admin_level=8 representing both county and city, respectively. (On these, a tag of border_type=county;city prevails). However, the agglomeration of New York City has emerged with wide US consensus as an unusual case: New York City is the US's only "consolidated city-county of multiple counties" (or "county equivalents"), so we tag it admin_level=5. (Similarly, but without the "city" component of the agglomeration of counties, the three "Grand Divisions" of Tennessee — effectively dividing the state into three regions — are also tagged admin_level=5). If other CCCs grow by agglomerating entire multiple counties, these new multiple-county CCCs can promote from admin_level=6 to admin_level=5 to be consistent with New York City (see Discussion). "Tag twice" such multiple-county CCCs: for New York City, admin_level=5 on the consolidated city and admin_level=6 on each subordinate borough (county equivalent). With both New York City and Tennessee's Grand Divisions, OSM does "multiply load" admin_level=5 in the USA. In both cases, each represents "something subordinate" to the states of New York and Tennessee (each at admin_level=4), but "different things." Really, this is true in all jurisdictions below 4, for example, a 9 in one state may not exist, though if it does, it is certainly something different than a 9 in another state. The result (as is true in all of OSM regarding admin_level=* tags) is that each state, Territory, Commonwealth, District or Nation means something unique with each of its particular values of admin_level=*.

Some de jure CCCs (for example, San Francisco) are tagged only admin_level=6 (no additional coterminous polygon tagged admin_level=8) perhaps also with a border_type=county;city tag. If so, it is not known if this is a shortcut, "tagging for a renderer" or a deliberate omission of the city boundary.

An Independent city (IC) is "a city not in the territory of any county or counties." ICs differ from CCCs as there is only one relation to tag (admin_level=6, not admin_level=8, nor both, as in the case of all but one of US's CCCs, New York City). ICs subordinate directly to their state (admin_level=4) with no intervening county, in what might be thought of as "a city with administrative level of (an urbanized) county, but not a county." In an example of consistency with the Census Bureau (and by virtue that admin_level=6 semantically means county/equivalent in all 50 states, but not all of USA), OSM treats ICs as "county equivalents." 38 of 41 ICs in the USA are in Virginia, whose state constitution treats all incorporated municipalities as ICs.

Finally, an important distinction to note are the hundreds of US cities (admin_level=8) which extend in a minor way into more than a single county (admin_level=6), the city slightly egressing into two, three, four or even five counties (as does Dallas, Texas). These ("regular cities, which slightly egress into another county") are not and differ from CCCs and ICs. They should be tagged the same as other "regular" cities (and counties), except that city boundaries happen to cross county boundaries beyond the city's "home" or "primary" county.

Townships, some Districts, Agencies... as divisions of Native American Nations

Townships (admin_level=7) are found in about one-third of states (admin_level=4) and subordinate directly to a county (admin_level=6), yet are not a city/town/village (admin_level=8). The political/administrative relationships between these entities is specific to each state and can be quite complicated, with many nuanced "exceptions" to what seem like straightforward "rules." In fact, the interplay between these political entities can be so complicated that at least one OSM Contributor asserts that many common assumptions about them are wholly false and the concept of hierarchical admin_level=* often completely breaks down; see here.

As noted above in United_States_admin_level#Native_American_Indian_reservations, there are 'Districts' and 'Agencies' tagged admin_level=7 which subordinate to Native American Nations as polygons tagged boundary=aboriginal_lands with no admin_level=* tag (in Arizona/Four Corners states, the Dakotas). Despite sharing the same admin_level=* value, these (Townships, Districts, Agencies...) are not equivalent. Again, not just in the USA, but anywhere in the world in OSM, it is not necessarily true that an entity with a particular admin_level=* value is "the same sort of administrative / political entity" as another which happens to share the same admin_level=* value. In some cases (usually at a hierarchically higher-level), such as states (admin_level=4), this can be said to be "mostly true," but note that there are Territories, Commonwealths and a District which are also admin_level=4, yet differ completely from both states and one another.

Unincorporated areas

In US local government, an unincorporated area generally refers to the part of a county which is outside any incorporated municipality. Please see the Wikipedia article, as the topic is somewhat complex: most states have granted some form of "home rule," so that county commissions (or boards or councils) have the same powers in these areas as city councils or town councils have in their respective incorporated areas. Some states instead put these powers in the hands of "townships," minor civil divisions (MCDs) of each county, called "towns" in some states. Some states have no unincorporated land areas; these include Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, although these states all have communities that are not separately incorporated but are part of a larger municipality. Due to differences in state laws regarding the incorporation of communities, there is great variation in the distribution and nature of unincorporated areas.

It does not appear OSM needs to explicitly delineate unincorporated areas in boundary=administrative relations. For these communities, tag a node with place=* and name=*, as appropriate, omitting the admin_level=* tag in all cases (on a node). See United_States/Tags#Places for guidance. Such nodes do render and are valid in other use cases like geocoders.

However, it is emerging (2024-Q1) that in three New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont) there are unincorporated boundaries (called "township" or "unorganized_town" or "gore") which are denoted boundary=administrative admin_level=8. These can be identified as distinct with an additional tag of border_type=township or border_type=gore (in Maine) or border_type=unorganized_town or border_type=gore (in Vermont), although there are quite similar incorporated admin_level=8 entities in these three states which can be identified (as distinct from unincorporated townships) from their tags border_type=plantation, border_type=town, border_type=city, (in Maine), border_type=town or border_type=city (in Vermont), or something with a value of border_type=* different from "township" (in New Hampshire). Except for areas in these three states, minimal instances of unincorporated polygons are found in the USA: again, a node as described above seems the best way to express unincorporated areas, much less so in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont where these are explicitly tagged boundary=administrative admin_level=8 and border_type=*, the latter tag having specific values found in this paragraph or the table rows for these three states (which express whether what is tagged is incorporated or unincorporated).

While this wiki is US-based, note a talk-ca First nations boundary tagging thread which explores (by US- and Canada-based Contributors) this wide topic, including how complex unincorporated boundaries e.g. relation 11305308 might be tagged. The topic is complex; it is easily confused or muddied and often sensitive. As of 2023, it seems flexible with a "case-by-case" approach ("what the people of the land say") having emerged. Note that from this talk-ca thread, some places in Canada do map unincorporated areas, even as highly complex as these (multi)polygons can be.

Federal enclaves, extraterritorial jurisdiction

A US federal enclave is a parcel of federal property within a state that is under the "Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States." Last officially tabulated in 1960, there were about 5,000 such enclaves, with about one million people living on them. These numbers are undoubtedly lower today because many of these areas were military bases that have been closed and transferred out of federal ownership. However, many remain, especially in Alaska and Hawaii. Since the late 1950s, it has been official federal policy that the states should have "full concurrent jurisdiction" on all federal enclaves. Best tagging practices to achieve this goal of "both federal and state concurrent jurisdictions" are unknown, suggestions are welcome. It may be that two separate relations suffice, similar to consolidated city-counties (CCCs), one tagged admin_level=2, the other tagged admin_level=4. Or, some logical relational magic "punches out a hole" in the larger context, this seems complex.

The US federal government maintains exclusive jurisdiction over military installations (Department of Defense) and American embassies and consulates in foreign countries (Department of State). Little to no OSM consensus has emerged regarding boundary=administrative tags on these entities.

The United States exercises some degree of extraterritorial jurisdiction in other areas. These include Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, a 45 mile2 (117 km2) area of land along Guantánamo Bay, Cuba as well as American scientific research stations in Antarctica: Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, McMurdo Station and Palmer Station are under American jurisdiction, but held without sovereignty as per the Antarctic Treaty. Little to no OSM consensus has emerged regarding boundary=administrative tags on these entities.


The inclusion of "ward" as a usually admin_level=9-valued tag has become increasingly questioned as "not administrative (as in a government), but rather a voting district, or similar." Before applying boundary=administrative + admin_level=9 to a "ward," consider whether boundary=political, possibly with political_division=*, is more correct in that particular case: if a ward is only distinguished for electoral purposes, tag it as boundary=political + political_division=ward. In cities which contain both wards and neighborhoods (New Orleans?), it may make sense to tag the wards admin_level=9 and the neighborhoods admin_level=10, to preserve this hierarchy. Additionally, if it can be determined that "wards" do not accurately represent a truly administrative "government" as defined here (whether at admin_level=9 or another value) in any particular state, District, Territory, or Commonwealth, please correct the corresponding table entry by deleting "Ward" as a possible value.

In Dallas, Texas, six wards were once in existence, precursors to today's City Council districts. While references to wards might still exist on signs and in local vernacular, wards no longer exist legally, even as some area residents still identify certain communities, especially those that have been a part of the city since incorporation, as being "wards" of the city.

Homeowner associations, CIDs, MTIPs

In the US, a homeowner association (HOA) is a private association formed by a real estate developer for the purpose of marketing, managing, and selling homes and lots in a residential subdivision. OSM has not reached a consensus on tagging HOAs in the US. It may be that consensus emerges to tag them boundary=administrative + admin_level=10 on a state-by-state basis, but that has not occurred. It may emerge that boundary=HOA is appropriate if it is determined (perhaps in a particular state with a particular body of HOA law, or lack thereof) that HOAs are not administrative boundaries. Ongoing legal discussions and emerging case law in many states continue to determine whether HOAs are de jure governments, even if they are de facto communities as a municipal corporation. It has begun to emerge, but is not universal, that landuse=residential + name=* tags appropriately denote these semantics without the need to additionally tag boundary=* or admin_level=* with any particular values.

The fastest-growing form of housing in the US today are common-interest developments (CIDs), a category of housing that includes planned unit (or urban) developments (PUDs) of single-family homes, condominiums and cooperative apartments. An alternative to CIDs is the multiple-tenant income property (MTIP), known in the United Kingdom as "housing estates." CIDs and MTIPs have fundamentally different forms of governance from each other. As with HOAs, no OSM consensus has emerged for CIDs, PUDs or MTIPs with regard to boundary=* or admin_level=*.

See also


  1. The District of Columbia may be considered an administrative subdivision of the United States at the same level as a territory or commonwealth. The District relation 162069 is tagged with admin_level=4.
  2. The city of Washington, coterminous with the District of Columbia, is considered by the Census Bureau as a "county equivalent," similar to a CCC, but strictly speaking, not a CCC. Washington is tagged with admin_level=8, not admin_level=6.
  3. The "prototypical" structure as it is expressed in this row is intended to reduce clutter in the table. States with explicit row entries intend to convey administrative structure which differ somewhat from this prototypical structure.
  4. 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 consensus, so please do not tag these like this.
  5. The Census Bureau infers 21 states have townships: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin. Explicitly listing these 21 states with townships is intended to reduce clutter in the table. While admittedly confusing, it should be noted that while the Census Bureau infers a "civil" township in these states, some may be "nominal" townships only, that is, not a township in the sense of a county's (admin_level=6) direct subdivision (admin_level=7), but rather only named "township," and actually a small city (as in New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Vermont — where a township is more similar to a village, and may be either incorporated or unincorporated), so admin_level=8 is more appropriate there. This reduces the "OSM actual" number of states with ("true") townships from 21 to 16.
  6. While it does not occur frequently over the whole of 3000+ United States counties, there are hundreds of city boundaries which extend beyond a single county in a minor way, the city slightly egressing into two, three or even four or five counties. In some states (Alabama, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas) this happens dozens of times, and so might be "somewhat frequent." These are not and differ from CCCs and ICs. New York City fully encompasses five county equivalents, different than these "egressing cities."
  7. Unlike counties (or parishes in Louisiana) in other states, Alaska's 19 organized boroughs do not cover the entire land area of the state, leaving a large area (larger than any other state) known as the Unorganized Borough. An Alaska (organized) borough is sometimes called a "county equivalent," although in the case of the Unorganized Borough this is not strictly accurate, as the Unorganized Borough is administered solely by the state to a large degree. (As an example of a minor exception to state administration in the Unorganized Borough, school district administration happens locally). The Census Bureau, in cooperation with the state of Alaska, further divides the Unorganized Borough into ten census areas. Boroughs and census areas within the Unorganized Borough are both treated as "county equivalents" by the Census Bureau, however, in a divergence from the Census Bureau, OSM does not treat census-defined areas within the Unorganized Borough as "county equivalents," so tag these boundary=census.
  8. Anchorage, Haines, Juneau, Sitka, Wrangell and Yakutat classify as consolidated city-boroughs (same as CCCs, two coterminous areas, one tagged admin_level=6, the other tagged admin_level=8), rather than cities (admin_level=8 alone). These all include City and Borough in their names, except for Anchorage, officially named Municipality of Anchorage, considered a consolidated city-borough under state law.
  9. 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 consensus, so please do not tag these like this.
  10. California pioneered (in Lakewood) the concept of a "contract city" whereby a city contracts one or more municipal services to another unit of government, or to a private or commercial organization, often via a "franchise" agreement. Most of the contracts are for police or fire / rescue / paramedic services to the county in which the city lies or a neighboring city. Contract cities also exist in other states, such as Colorado and Georgia.
  11. Circa 1960 Connecticut largely 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. Largely, Connecticut counties are geographic entities, but only "very lightly" governmental jurisdictions (they only delineate judiciary boundaries), having limited authority, meaning most government administration is at state (4) and local (8, 9) levels. After a "realignment" in 2014, the original 15 Regions reduced to nine, all containing "Council of Governments" in their name. These are known as "Regional COGs" or "RCOGs." Per this consensus (emerged 2012, established 2017, refined 2020) and others in 2024 as the Census Bureau considers these "county equivalents," while OSM does too, they are not counties, so these "Regions" are now tagged with boundary=administrative admin_level=6 border_type=COG, so "Regional COG" is entered into the table in the Connecticut row at value=6. Connecticut counties in OSM are tagged boundary=political border_type=county as they are now so "lightly" governmental they are still extant, but they are more geographical and kept in the map thusly. See Local government in Connecticut.
  12. A major reasoning behind why Connecticut's COG boundaries are tagged admin_level=6 is the strong identification that "county" (or a logical equivalent, even if that is not its proper name or form in OSM) continues to have as a unit of government in the USA (by other government entities, like the Census Bureau) even as "county" was nearly abolished by Connecticut's legislature circa 1960. Although, court jurisdictions still adhere to the county boundaries, except for Fairfield, Hartford and New Haven, which (due to their relatively large populations) have been further subdivided into several jurisdictions. Connecticut is certainly an example of how in New England, states tend towards a "weak county, strong town" style of government. It is important to note in the context of Connecticut counties that RCOGs (see previous Note) have largely replaced (in limited fashion, and without taxing authority) what counties used to do before 1960. Despite this limited sense of government (perhaps because of it, to emphasize the distinction), OSM tags these boundary=administrative with border_type=COG, not border_type=county. In 2024, the Census Bureau recognizes Connecticut's RCOGs as "county equivalents," however, OSM has chosen to tag RCOGs with admin_level=6, keeping the tagging outlined here, where admin_level=6 denotes the now-COGs and the still-extant "county boundaries" delineate judicial boundaries, not the RCOG boundaries in this and the previous Note.
  13. Towns in New England are municipal corporations, with their powers defined by a combination of municipal corporate charter, state statutes, and the state constitution.
  14. At one time, all New England cities were non-coextensive with their underlying town; the practice of making cities coextensive with their towns was a later adaptation intended to mimic the city concept that had emerged in the other New England states. Over time, many non-coextensive cities have expanded to become coextensive with their parent town. As with boroughs, many have also disincorporated and reverted to full town control. Wikipedia states: (as) "the entire area of Connecticut is divided into towns, cities and boroughs are within town areas and their governments may or may not be consolidated with those of the towns in which they are located."
  15. There are no legal restrictions in Connecticut that would prevent a city or borough today from overlaying the territory of more than one town, provided it is not consolidated with one of the underlying towns. In New England, non-coextensive cities have become very rare.
  16. Unique to Hawaii is the lack of municipal governments. All local governments are generally administered at the county level. The only incorporated area in the state is Honolulu County, a consolidated city–county that governs the entire island of Oahu. Entities resembling local government are in fact special-purpose districts. This means all government administration is at state (4) and county (6) levels.
  17. Wikipedia states: "The Illinois Township Code includes provisions for a municipality coextensive with a township. Such a municipality is known variously as a coterminous city and a coterminous municipality and the township is called a coterminous township." None are known here or entered in OSM.
  18. See this, which says that of the 102 counties in Illinois, 17 (west central, southern) of them are divided into 261 precincts and the remaining 85 counties are divided into 1433 townships.
  19. Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes in the same way that 48 of 49 other states of the United States are divided into counties (Alaska is divided into boroughs). A Louisiana parish is sometimes called a "county equivalent."
  20. "Township" in Maine (like New Hampshire and Vermont) are unincorporated, unorganized territories directly managed by the state (they are not part of any town, city or plantation). Both "city" and "town" are incorporated and organized, and in Maine, "plantations" are organized but unincorporated. "Townships" and "villages" have no municipal governments of their own, but are used for state and local administrative purposes. They are also used by locals as place names (just like a town name). This includes "gores", "plantations", "county islands", "patents" etc.
  21. Geographically divided into 14 counties, Massachusetts has limited to no county government in eight of them, similar to Rhode Island. This means in these eight counties (Berkshire, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Suffolk and Worcester), most government administration is at state (4) and local (8, 9) levels. However, several functions implemented by the state are organized by county lines, including District Attorney, Sheriff and the judiciary. These eight counties are tagged admin_level=6 in 2020-Q2 (though not in the past); present tagging is deliberate.
  22. 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.
  23. 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 incorporated as a city or annexed to a city, the township ceases to exist in every sense.
  24. 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.
  25. 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, an aspect of "home rule."
  26. In Michigan, a village is subordinate to a township and can span more than one township. Villages can also span more than one county.
  27. Portions of some Minnesota counties are "unorganized" — that is, not a township or city — and are governed by the county board. As such, they have no boundary=administrative of their own, but may display as "holes" in other such boundaries.
  28. 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 in 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. In Minnesota, state statute refers to such entities as towns yet requires them to have a name in the form "Name Township." NOTE: As of 2023-Q3, township boundaries in Minnesota are in earlier stages of being entered into OSM.
  29. In Minnesota, as in many other states, a city can be part of more than one county. County boundaries are not adjusted according to city boundaries. In this sense, Minnesota's structure in the table is likely prototypical for several other (often northeastern or midwestern) states.
  30. Some cities such as Minneapolis have well-defined neighborhood boundaries that are used by neighborhood organizations.
  31. In Mississippi, a city can be part of more than one county, although this is rare (e.g., Hattiesburg). County boundaries are not adjusted according to city boundaries. There is no constitutional or legal provision for independent cities, nor are there any consolidated city-counties.
  32. Unincorporated settlements in Mississippi are typically referred to as "name Community" in conversation and media reports (e.g., Sunrise Community, Sharon Community), or sometimes just as "name". There may or may not also be a CDP of the same name. These unincorporated communities are typically represented by a place=hamlet node in OSM, with no line or area to represent a boundary as they have no defined land, and thus do not have an associated admin_level=* tag, regardless of whether or not there is an associated CDP. The name=* for them should just be the name value; "Community" should not be added to it. These unincorporated settlements may sometimes be absorbed into a nearby city through expansion, but often retain the identity of their original name (e.g., Queensburg, Laurel, Mississippi). It may be best to retag such settlements as place=suburb to reflect their new status as part of a city instead of deleting the node.
  33. Nevada has areas called townships, but they are not the same as civil townships. These areas are not separate governments, but have been granted some degree of self-rule by a county (similar to Metro Townships in Utah).
  34. Similar to the rest of New England, county government in New Hampshire is very weak and has relatively few responsibilities compared to states in other regions: usually only for the judiciary districts, local sheriff, jail services and nursing homes. Most local government functions are performed at the town and city (8) levels. In New Hampshire, as in Maine and Vermont, tag unincorporated areas (could be named township, gore, grant, purchase or location) with border_type=* as appropriate.
  35. New Jersey is unique in the United States for having five distinct types of incorporated municipalities. Each type of municipality has equal legal standing, rights, and powers as any other type or form. Unlike other parts of the United States, New Jersey does not have different tiers of power or legal standing for its municipal governments. Each of the five types has an associated form of government of exactly the same title. By default municipalities have the form of government which corresponds to their type, i.e. a Township has the Township form of government. In New Jersey a municipality can choose a different form of government if its citizens do not wish to operate under the form that matches its type.
  36. In New York, a "Town" is effectively equivalent to an "incorporated township" in other states. In New York, it is also possible for a Town to be coterminous with its single Village in an entity known as a consolidated city-township.
  37. Many Villages cross Town lines, but Village inhabitants are also all governed by some Town. It is believed every Village is in one and only one County. In New York, a Village may be coterminous with its Town. Wikipedia says: "Such a local government is called a coterminous town-village and is governed under Article 17 of the New York Village Law. It is never called a consolidated city-township because New York's cities, as opposed to its villages, exist outside of town areas. Five towns are coterminous with their single village: Green Island in Albany County; East Rochester in Monroe County; and Scarsdale, Harrison and Mount Kisco in Westchester County."
  38. For neighborhood councils in Ohio's largest cities. May or may not correspond to voting wards. Use discretion; smaller cities' neighborhoods may be better served by (multi)polygons tagged landuse=residential.
  39. Hamlets and villages are not noted here, as they are informal, unincorporated divisions of a township. Where they officially exist at all, they are simply Census Designated Places tagged with boundary=census, and thus don't fit into this table at all.
  40. While it is geographically divided into five counties, Rhode Island almost has no government at the county level. This is similar to Connecticut, but even more strict, as not even court jurisdictions are defined at the county level. This means virtually all government administration is at state (4) and local (8, 9) levels. Rhode Island counties in OSM were tagged boundary=region, border_type=county, but to acquiesce to Rhode Island concerns, these boundaries are tagged boundary=administrative + admin_level=6, the supporting evidence is that Rhode Island uses county boundaries for minor administrative distinctions like sheriff district boundaries.
  41. Rhode Island villages do not have defined boundaries, they are only "customary locations" and should be denoted as nodes tagged place=village.
  42. Portions of some South Dakota counties are not part of either a township or a city and are governed directly by the county (this is common West River, for instance Lawrence County has only one township). As such, they have no boundary=administrative of their own. Use boundary=census for the census county divisions that cover these areas.
  43. South Dakota's townships do not cross county lines. In South Dakota, townships and cities are NOT mutually exclusive administrative subdivisions under the county level. Cities can cross multiple townships.
  44. In South Dakota, as in many other states, a city can be part of more than one county. County boundaries are not adjusted according to city boundaries.
  45. Dakota Dunes (Union County) and Powder House Pass (Lawrence County)
  46. Wentworth (Lake County)
  47. Some cities such as Sioux Falls have well-defined neighborhood boundaries that are used by neighborhood organizations. Other municipalities have a more loose definition of neighborhood. For municipalities without well-defined neighborhood boundaries, use admin_level=10 if there's a named, defined addition/subdivision given by the county/city GIS and locals use sentence structures such as "It's over in [NAME]." For instance, both the Green Acres Additions and the Ramsdell Addition in the City of Spearfish are legally defined and can easily be found in the Lawrence County GIS, but nobody ever says "I live in Ramsdell." while Green Acres is a well-defined section of Spearfish. Use of admin_level=10 in municipalities without well-defined neighborhood boundaries is up to the mapper's discretion.
  48. Rapid City
  49. See Grand Divisions of Tennessee
  50. Utah has areas called "metro townships," but they are not the same as civil townships in other states. These areas are not separate governments, but have been granted some degree of self-rule by a county (similar to townships in Nevada). All five of Utah's metro townships are located in Salt Lake County.
  51. In Utah, a municipality is called a town if the population is under 1,000 people, and a city if the population is over 1,000 people.
  52. Vermont has 37 incorporated villages (history). Other villages and hamlets do not have separate government apart from their Town and have indistinct borders mostly defined by the expansion of water/sewer/sidewalk and similar services. These unincorporated areas should be mapped as a node without an admin_level=* tag.
  53. In Vermont, if a village becomes a city, it does not continue to overlay (be coterminous with) its parent town, but breaks away and becomes a completely separate municipality.
  54. Gores are unincorporated areas generally left over from 18th-century survey inaccuracies or areas never annexed by a Town or too small to form a Town. They tend to be mountain ridges-tops and other less-desirable land and so have very low populations, insufficient to support a local government. They are administered by the State in lieu of a functioning local government.
  55. Since 1871, all incorporated cities in Virginia have classified as independent cities (ICs). Of the 41 ICs in the US, 38 are in Virginia, whose state constitution makes them a special case. In Virginia when multiple local governments consolidate to form a city (legally an IC), it may be divided into geographical subdivisions called "boroughs", which may be the same as the existing cities, counties, or portions of such counties. To emphasize: these boroughs are not separate local governments, they are geographical in nature.
  56. In Wisconsin, what is called a Town is effectively equivalent to Township in the rest of the US. In this sense, Wisconsin's structure in the table is likely prototypical for several other (often northeastern or midwestern) states.
  57. American Samoa, a substantially populated unincorporated unorganized territory, is divided into five municipalities: three districts (Eastern, Western, Manu'a) and two unorganized atolls (Rose Atoll, Swains Island, the latter is disputed with Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand). In Territories and Commonwealths, "Municipality" has a distinct meaning as "county equivalent" (admin_level=6), rather than the sense of "municipality" in the 50 states meaning a city, town or village (admin_level=8). This is true even in American Samoa, as the admin_level=* immediately below Municipality (admin_level=6) in Districts is, in fact, County (admin_level=7), which can have a subordinate level of Village (admin_level=8). Unorganized atolls have no admin_level=* below admin_level=6.
  58. The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands 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.
  59. Consistent with OSM's characterization of Municipio as admin_level=6, the Census Bureau defines a Municipio as a "county equivalent," similar to parish in Louisiana or borough in Alaska. Every municipality has at least one barrio called Pueblo which is home to the largest urban area of the municipality, and the political seat of the municipality. Most municipalities have a single barrio named Pueblo while others, most prominently the larger municipalities, may have a barrio Pueblo that is made of several barrios.
  60. 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).
  61. The US Census Bureau further breaks down some barrios in Puerto Rico into sub-barrios. It is unclear whether this is best represented as sub-barrio, sector or village. See Barrios of Puerto Rico.
  62. There are exactly two territorial municipalities as "districts" in the U.S. Virgin Islands: the St. Croix district and the St. Thomas - St. John district. These are well-mapped in OSM, though the subdistricts (nine, seven and four on those islands, respectively), Quarters and Estates are not currently mapped.
  63. There are no further administrative subdivisions below the admin_level=2 tag applied to the territorial waters surrounding these islands. As USMOI is technically a statistical grouping (each island or island group is actually an individual territory directly administered by a US federal government unit) this grouping should not have an admin_level=4 tag. And while the Census Bureau considers each island a county-equivalent, OSM chooses not to assign admin_level=6 to each, as noted. Let's keep the relation as a convenient grouping.
    All but three of USMOI are uninhabited. In the Pacific Ocean, Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Wake Island's wildlife and most of Palmyra Atoll are administered by US Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (land areas) and US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (ocean areas) as Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Parts of Palmyra Atoll (Cooper Island and ten other land parcels) are privately administered by The Nature Conservancy, Inc. which manages them as a nature reserve. Palmyra Atoll is the US' only incorporated unorganized territory, with a population between 4 and 20. All other USMOI are unincorporated unorganized territories.
    Midway Islands are also under US Fish and Wildlife Service jurisdiction as Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial, part of the greater Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument (Papahānaumokuākea, which also includes Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge). About 50 people live on Midway's Sand Island, all are US Fish and Wildlife Service staff or contract workers.
    Wake Island is a restricted-access active airfield administered by the US Department of Defense (Air Force) under a US Department of Interior agreement, with a non-permanent population between 94 and 150. Wake Island's status as a US territory is in dispute as it is also claimed (as Ānen Kio) by the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
    In the Caribbean Sea, Navassa Island, Serranilla Bank and Bajo Nuevo Bank are also uninhabited unincorporated unorganized territories of the US, though disputed: the first claimed by Haiti, the latter two administered by Colombia, though claimed by the US (since 1879 under the Guano Islands Act) as well as by Jamaica and Nicaragua. Serranilla Bank is also claimed by Honduras. In 2012, a claim for Serranilla Bank and Bajo Nuevo Bank was resolved in favor of Colombia by the UN International Court of Justice, though it is not clear whether the US recognizes the jurisdiction of this court in this case.
  64. As of 2017, there are 40 consolidated city-counties in the US, including Anchorage, Butte, Denver, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Lexington, Louisville, Nantucket, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco. For example, San Francisco is both a county (political division) of California, and an incorporated city, which includes seemingly redundant administration in some cases: it has both County Sheriff deputies as well as City Police officers, each of which serve distinct legal purposes (and act with mutual aid when necessary).
  65. Established by the Constitution of Maryland, Baltimore is not part of any county and is the largest independent city in the United States. A separate entity, Baltimore city is distinct from Baltimore County, neither consolidated with it nor subordinate to it.
  66. In an act of "urban secession," Saint Louis separated from Saint Louis County in 1877, becoming an independent city and limiting its own political boundaries. A separate entity, Saint Louis city is distinct from Saint Louis County, neither consolidated with it nor subordinate to it.
  67. The Consolidated Municipality of Carson City is an independent city, meaning it has effectively subsumed Ormsby County, which no longer exists. While "Consolidated" remains in the official name of Carson City, it is an independent city, not a consolidated city-county; there is no longer an Ormsby County.
  68. See United States/American Indian reservations, United States/Boundaries and threads beginning at: [1] [2] [3] [4]
  69. See threads beginning at: [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]