The definition of a census-designated place or CDP is rather complex and difficult to understand. We are going to try to explain it as much as possible. Starting from the top and working our way to the bottom let’s explain what census-designated place means.
First of all, we all know that there are 50 states in the United States that each has its own government and legislative power. This legislative power makes it possible for a state to have a law that’s different from the federal law and it also allows for state taxes, or lack of them when we look at Texas’s lack of income tax. This state government uses this legislative power on the counties within it. The state of Delaware has 3 counties while Texas has 254, but so far nothing much is different. The county works to implement every state law for its citizens as a political subdivision of a state.
The next step is the cities, towns, and villages. These are entities that have their own branches of government to work on the state’s behalf. By having these local governments, the cities cut out the middleman, the county. This means that the counties can no longer implement the state’s law as the city has its own government to do just that. There are cities that are county seats that hold the county’s government. These are incorporated entities of the state.
Finally, any other concentration of population that remains is a census-designated place also referred to as unincorporated places. These unincorporated census-designated places do not pertain to any other government but to that of the county of which they belong. The county is the government entity that has jurisdiction over these places. Furthermore, their only boundary is an artificial one implemented by the US Census Bureau, for the sole purpose of being able to help for statistical reasons every ten years during the Census. Unincorporated census-designated areas or places do not have a city hall, mayor house and are only ruled by the county.
That is the simplest way to describe the difference between an incorporated area (city, town, village) and an unincorporated place. Now we’ll give a few examples and this is where it gets interesting.
Arlington, VA - this is an unincorporated census-designated area. Arlington, VA is it’s own county and this is why it is considered by many a city. Arlington, VA CDP is bordered by the county Arlington, VA, and ruled by the county’s government. It has no city hall and the state legislature implements that of the county.
Los Angeles County - there are state, county, and city rates for minimum wage. In the county of Los Angeles over 60% is unincorporated and it creates confusion as to which rates apply. In this situation, given the fact that CDP’s are considered unincorporated, the county minimum wage rates apply. If a city is incorporated, then the city’s minimum wage rates apply.
The state of Hawaii - there are no incorporated communities in Hawaii. This makes it a state filled with unincorporated census-designated places. There are 5 counties in Hawaii which are the only government bodies aside from the state government. No other form of government exists in Hawaii besides the state and the counties, even Honolulu being governed by the county of Honolulu.