Rural areas in the transition countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia are often excluded from the fruits of economic growth. In this paper it is argued that this exclusion goes beyond the mere 'rural-urban divide' caused by unequal income distribution. Social exclusion, measured by three dimensions, exclusion from economic life, exclusion from social services, and exclusion from civic life and social networks, is captured by an innovative multidimensional exclusion index (MEI), developed in the Regional Human Development Report. The empirical base for the MEI is a set of large household surveys in six transition countries, Kazakhstan, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine, held in the period September-November 2009, during the height of the economic crisis. Special emphasis is given to the location factor, showing that social exclusion is overall stronger in rural areas in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in particular caused by the stronger influence of the second dimension, exclusion from social services, which includes access and quality to public utilities. © 2013 The Author. Sociologia Ruralis