Abstract The rural-urban dichotomy is widely used in descriptions of regional problems and in regional policy. However, in the Scandinavian countries, especially in Sweden, the concept of ‘urbanized rural areas’ is more relevant to describe the present and emerging situation in peripheral regions. National programmes for social welfare and infrastructure development have meant increased integration between rural and urban areas. Female participation in the formal labour market has increased. Multiple jobholding is also a reflection of the dual dependency on rural and urban resources. Although the explicit rural and regional policy aims at the active development of rural resources, in practice the major efforts are directed towards the maintenance of local labour markets and basic services. This seems to create integrated rural-urban peripheral regions in Scandinavia that prove to be viable in the short term, but which are at risk in terms of the future orientation of their economic structure.