Parish Vs County

When it comes to understanding the differences between parish and county, many people are often confused. It is especially true for people who come from areas outside of the United States, where these terms may hold entirely different meanings.

In the United States, the county and parishes are two types of geographic subdivisions that serve similar purposes. However, there are some key differences between the two. In this article, we will explore the definition, function, and differences between parish and county to see how they compare to one another.

What is a Parish?

The term ‘parish’ is predominantly used in the US state of Louisiana and is equivalent to the counties of the other states. It comes from the Spanish term “parroquia” which means “a small ecclesiastical district or congregation”. In Louisiana, each parish serves as a local government administrative unit, similar to a county in other states.

In Louisiana, they have 64 parishes, with each of them having their unique government structure. Typically, the parish governments in Louisiana are run by a “parish president,” and the local legislative body is the “parish council” or “police jury.”

Each parish in Louisiana is made of one or more municipalities, unincorporated areas, or both. The parish government’s duties may include maintaining roads and bridges, law enforcement, garbage collection, library services, parks and recreation, and more. It is worth noting that the cities or towns in Louisiana do not have the power to operate beyond their jurisdiction, so many essential services like police enforcement, fire rescue, and sewage management are managed by the parishes.

What is a County?

A county is a type of administrative division in the United States, which is used to define a specific geographic area. The term “county” is used in 48 of the 50 states, excluding Louisiana and Alaska. Counties are usually run by elected officials, typically a board of commissioners, a county judge, or a county executive. The responsibilities are similar to that of parishes and include operating the local justice system, maintaining public health, performing vital records services, and more.

In some states, counties may have the power to operate in specific areas, for example, if a county has a large city within its confines, it may have its local government that manages some essential services. Overall, counties can have a varying degree of control and authority depending on the state’s laws.

County Vs. Parish

Now that you have a better understanding of what a parish, and county is, let’s take a look at some of the different features that set the two apart:

1. The primary difference between parish and county is the location. Parishes are used by Louisiana, while counties are used by all of the other states except for Alaska.

2. Parishes usually do not have as much autonomy as counties. Counties, especially those with larger cities, tend to have more power, having more control over various local services.

3. County governments are typically governed by boards of commissioners while parishes are usually managed by a parish council. In Louisiana, the parish president usually heads the local administration.

4. In general, the duties and services provided by both parishes and counties are similar. Both have responsibilities that include roads and bridges, garbage collection, law enforcement, parks and recreation, and many others.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Are there any other names for a parish or county?

At least in the United States, no. In all of the 50 states, parishes and counties are the primary types of administrative divisions. However, in some states, parishes and counties may be referred to by other names too. For example, in Connecticut, the counties are referred to as “shires.”

2. How big are parishes and counties generally?

There is no standard size when it comes to the area of a parish or county. The size and area of these administrative divisions completely depend on the state’s laws and the number of people they serve. In some states, like Texas, the counties are massive and cover thousands of square miles. On the other hand, some states have exceptionally small counties.

3. Can a county or parish split its jurisdiction?

Yes. At times, counties and parishes may change their jurisdictional boundaries. For example, when a city or town expands its territory, it may fall under the jurisdiction of the neighboring county or parish.


In summary, parishes and counties are two types of administrative divisions that serve similar functions. The primary differences between the two come down to their location, level of autonomy, and management structure. Parishes are primarily used in Louisiana, while counties are in every other state except Alaska. While both administrative divisions may have distinct differences, they both serve to enhance the lives and welfare of the people they serve.