USA Urban Areas List and Population

Based on 2020 census data, and updated urban area definition, approximately 80% of the US population technically live in an urban area. That leaves about 20% who technically live in rural areas. I find that to be quite interesting. Here’s some statistics and information about USA urban areas, lists, names, visual graphs, population, and source links.

According to data for census.gov, as of 2020, there were (rounded) 268 million Americans living in urban classified areas. A quick check of the US population today (early 2023), there are 334 million people living in the United States.

Urban areas are clusters of development that meet a minimum population density threshold. Here’s the updated technical definition:

Urban Areas Criteria
Q: What is the definition of an urban area?
A: Urban areas represent densely developed territory, and encompass residential, commercial, and
other nonresidential urban land uses. Each urban area must encompass at least 2,000 housing units or
at least 5,000 people. This is a change from the previous minimum of 2,500 people which had been in
place since the 1910 Census.

Urban areas are defined primarily based on housing unit density measured at the census block level.
Three housing unit densities are applied during the delineation process:

  • Initial urban core: at least 425 housing units persquare mile. Based on the national average of
    2.6 people per occupied housing unit, this density threshold is similar to the 1,000 people per
    square mile used in 2000 and 2010 when delineating initial urban cores.
  • Remainder of urban area: at least 200 housing units per square mile. This is similar to the 500
    people per square mile density used for the 2000 and 2010 Censuses, based on the national
    average of 2.6 people per occupied housing unit.
  • At least one high-density nucleus of at least 1,275 housing units per square mile required for
    qualification. This ensures that each urban area contains a high-density nucleus typical of what
    one would expect to find within an urban area. In addition to the change in minimum thresholds
    for qualification and the change to use of housing unit density, the Census Bureau also will no
    longer distinguish between urbanized areas of 50,000 or more people and urban clusters of less
    than 50,000 people.
(source PDF from census.gov)

I downloaded a spreadsheet that lists all 2,645 urban areas in the US. Then I started playing with the numbers, and illustrating them with charts and graphs. Here are some interesting statistical results:

Nearly 30% of all the people living in urban areas live in just 10 of them.

Nearly 70% of all people living in urban areas live in the Top 100.

82% of urbanites live in the Top 250, while nearly 90% live in the Top 500 urban areas.

Here’s an interesting representation urban areas map of the contiguous United States. I came across it during my research. I like the map because it proportionally shows where people live within all of the urban areas (size of the circles).

Image source credit: Dan Malouff (transportation planner for Arlington and an adjunct professor at George Washington University).

And here’s a list of the Top 100 urban areas in the United States, and their population, where nearly 70% or all the urbanites live…

1 New York–Jersey City–Newark, NY–NJ 19,426,449
2 Los Angeles–Long Beach–Anaheim, CA 12,237,376
3 Chicago, IL–IN 8,671,746
4 Miami–Fort Lauderdale, FL 6,077,522
5 Houston, TX 5,853,575
6 Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, TX 5,732,354
7 Philadelphia, PA–NJ–DE–MD 5,696,125
8 Washington–Arlington, DC–VA–MD 5,174,759
9 Atlanta, GA 4,999,259
10 Boston, MA–NH 4,382,009
11 Phoenix–Mesa–Scottsdale, AZ 3,976,313
12 Detroit, MI 3,776,890
13 Seattle–Tacoma, WA 3,544,011
14 San Francisco–Oakland, CA 3,515,933
15 San Diego, CA 3,070,300
16 Minneapolis–St. Paul, MN 2,914,866
17 Tampa–St. Petersburg, FL 2,783,045
18 Denver–Aurora, CO 2,686,147
19 Riverside–San Bernardino, CA 2,276,703
20 Baltimore, MD 2,212,038
21 Las Vegas–Henderson–Paradise, NV 2,196,623
22 St. Louis, MO–IL 2,156,323
23 Portland, OR–WA 2,104,238
24 San Antonio, TX 1,992,689
25 Sacramento, CA 1,946,618
26 Orlando, FL 1,853,896
27 San Juan, PR 1,844,410
28 San Jose, CA 1,837,446
29 Austin, TX 1,809,888
30 Pittsburgh, PA 1,745,039
31 Cleveland, OH 1,712,178
32 Indianapolis, IN 1,699,881
33 Cincinnati, OH–KY 1,686,744
34 Kansas City, MO–KS 1,674,218
35 Columbus, OH 1,567,254
36 Virginia Beach–Norfolk, VA 1,451,578
37 Charlotte, NC–SC 1,379,873
38 Milwaukee, WI 1,306,795
39 Providence, RI–MA 1,285,806
40 Jacksonville, FL 1,247,374
41 Salt Lake City, UT 1,178,533
42 Nashville-Davidson, TN 1,158,642
43 Raleigh, NC 1,106,646
44 Richmond, VA 1,059,150
45 Memphis, TN–MS–AR 1,056,190
46 Oklahoma City, OK 982,276
47 Hartford, CT 977,158
48 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY–IN 974,397
49 Buffalo, NY 948,864
50 Bridgeport–Stamford, CT–NY 916,408
51 New Orleans, LA 914,531
52 Tucson, AZ 875,441
53 El Paso, TX–NM 854,584
54 Honolulu, HI 853,252
55 Omaha, NE–IA 819,508
56 McAllen, TX 779,553
57 Bradenton–Sarasota–Venice, FL 779,075
58 Birmingham, AL 774,956
59 Albuquerque, NM 769,837
60 Tulsa, OK 722,810
61 Fresno, CA 717,589
62 Rochester, NY 704,327
63 Charleston, SC 684,773
64 Dayton, OH 674,046
65 Mission Viejo–Lake Forest–Laguna Niguel, CA 646,843
66 Colorado Springs, CO 632,494
67 Baton Rouge, LA 631,326
68 Allentown–Bethlehem, PA–NJ 621,703
69 Ogden–Layton, UT 608,857
70 Grand Rapids, MI 605,666
71 Cape Coral, FL 599,242
72 Knoxville, TN 597,257
73 Albany–Schenectady, NY 593,142
74 Columbia, SC 590,407
75 Provo–Orem, UT 588,609
76 Bakersfield, CA 570,235
77 New Haven, CT 561,456
78 Des Moines, IA 542,486
79 Akron, OH 541,879
80 Concord–Walnut Creek, CA 538,583
81 Temecula–Murrieta–Menifee, CA 528,991
82 Palm Bay–Melbourne, FL 510,675
83 McKinney–Frisco, TX 504,803
84 Wichita, KS 500,231
85 Toledo, OH–MI 497,952
86 Harrisburg, PA 490,859
87 Worcester, MA–CT 482,085
88 Little Rock, AR 461,864
89 Madison, WI 450,305
90 Spokane, WA 447,279
91 Reno, NV–CA 446,529
92 Springfield, MA–CT 442,145
93 Port St. Lucie, FL 437,745
94 Boise City, ID 433,180
95 Augusta-Richmond County, GA–SC 431,480
96 Denton–Lewisville, TX 429,461
97 Bonita Springs–Estero, FL 425,675
98 Winston-Salem, NC 420,924
99 Phoenix West–Goodyear–Avondale, AZ 419,946
100 Kissimmee–St. Cloud, FL 418,404

I found the following map to be fascinating. It’s a PDF (14 MB) file that you can really zoom in on, which shows all of the various ‘urban areas’. It’s too big to paste into this article, but you can look at it or download yourself from this link at census.gov.

Why do I find all this interesting?

Well, for a number of reasons. One of them being that we talk about (occasionally here on the blog) the varying risks/system-risks associated with living in population-dense regions. Seeing it visualized, reading the statistics about where the majority of people live, it sheds light on many things.

For example, the fact that politics and subsequent laws and governance of such urban areas do highly influence and often dictate those of rural regions (because most people live in urban areas). Lifestyles and politics can be, and often are, very different between urban areas and rural. High population densities create unique problems and issues, whereas rural folks will typically ‘get along’ without an overabundance of oversight.

And of course, should there ever be systemic breakdowns of infrastructure, urban areas will be the first to hit-the-fan. And right quickly. In my view, it is unnatural to live so tightly packed together. But I do understand how and why it is. Anyway, this has simply been another presentation of perspective on population and where people live…

Another source link:
https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/geography/guidance/geo-areas/urban-rural.html

[ Read: Timeline Of Events Following A Long Term Grid Down Catastrophe ]

18 Comments

  1. I don’t even see New Mexico on that map HAHAHA
    OK think on this one, during the Great Depression those numbers are reversed, most folks lived on farms and mostly raised their own foods.
    And NO That Beef Steak does come from a farm/ranch. Most think it comes from a Plastics Plant manufactured in a plastic wrapper.
    If/When the $hit hits the fan, were all in trouble.

  2. I find this horribly depressing. When the inevitable collapse finally comes, all those people are going to be running around, desperate, freezing and starving. People in the cities are not preppers. I think I might be the only one. I see city people as basically large children, especially the younger generations. They are breathtakingly helpless. They don’t know where their food comes from. Many of them have never climbed a tree. Never caught a fish. Wouldn’t know what to do with it if they could catch one. Can’t hammer a nail. Can’t shoot. Can’t cook. Can’t darn a sock. I know a guy who didn’t know that wood has directional grain. He thought you could split wood by just chopping at it any old way. I’m not making this up. Another guy I know told me he planted “a ten-inch long row of tomatoes.” I was struck dumb. The city counsel where I live passed a bylaw allowing back-yard chickens. When the chicken gets old and stops laying you can’t just kill it and put it in the pot. You have to take it to the vet and have it put to sleep. These people are living all around me. If something bad happens… Must try not to panic…

  3. Here is something interesting that happened here during the beginning of the Big C lockdown. All the farmlands were hit with thieves out here. They broke into sheds, barns, shop buildings, vehicles for anything they could get there grubby hands on. (Luckily not us, but maybe our GSDs had something to do with that). There was no crime in the suburbs and small towns to speak of. Seems like they directly headed out as far as they could, even stealing fuel from farm equipment. Sort of surprised us all out here that we were targeted first. The majority were located and caught because they stupidly burgled RR equipment. Brought the Feds in. Good lesson for us tho. Stepped up multiple layers of lighting and security items, including fences, lights, locks, etc. And love those GSDs! Best ever!

      1. Kula, just saw your reply. We are 20 miles from a tiny town (with our post office), 40 miles from anything ‘suburban’, and about 90 miles from a major city. Mostly meth-heads.

  4. No Joke:
    Been in my area since 1981, DRO Colorado WAS a great little town.
    Now it’s a POS city of those exact transports you mentioned.
    I refuse to even go there anymore.
    And yes hundreds and hundreds of homeless have taken over much of the city.
    Very sad to watch such a wonder area being ruined.

  5. NW Gal, re “So, I’m trying to figure out what’s happening to the thousands who are crossing our borders daily.” More than half of all illegals in the US are from Mexico. Another 20% are from Central and South America. About 15% are from Asia. They mostly live in 20 urban areas – New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Dallas-Ft. Worth having the most. Then San Francisco, San Jose, Riverside, San Diego, Seattle, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Austin, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, DC, Philadelphia, and Boston in no particular order. There is a bungee factor to where they go – mostly to where they’ve been before or already have friends, relatives, or former neighbors. They also go where there are large Spanish-speaking (or other native tongue) populations so they can blend in and feel at home. Even though there are some red states represented on this list, the cities are all very blue. We’re seeing a backlash from those cities now, so the times they may be a changin’.

  6. NW Gal, You ask how the illegals are surviving. The vast majority of illegal aliens in the US entered legally, with temporary visas. They came mostly to visit family, go to school, shop, or work temporarily. When they didn’t leave at the end of their permitted stay here they became illegal. By that time most of them had established a home here. They are staying with relatives, babysitting, working in the vast underground economy, working in agriculture, etc. Except for community-based services like K-12 schooling, they are mostly not on the federal dole. The ones crossing illegally who are then permitted to stay while their fraudulent asylum applications and subsequent legal processes take a decade to finalize are getting some funding. They are the ones that are bankrupting the “sanctuary” cities and states – but only those that pass out assistance like candy on Halloween. Trick-or-Treat suckers! I feel for the poor Americans living near the southern border. For them, it’s an invasion under the rainbow/open-border flag of the leftists and all those who didn’t vote to stop the Ds who were firmly on this path.

  7. I’m with you about Austin. Loved it in the mid-seventies, then moved there in mid-eighties. Participated heavily in the music scene. Left 15 years ago when the traffic, noise, crime and commies took over.

    Isolated small community in the Ozarks is just right.

    1. Jade, agree, small town Ozarks for me too….everything you need is here, everyone gets along.

      1. Robin and Jade, Where were you when we lived in the Ozarks for 20 plus years? During Y2-k we had a very small group. We lived on the Missouri side. People in the Ozarks, for the most-part, know how to take care of themselves. I bet someone on here bought one of our places where we installed a Hardy out-door furnace and wood cook stoves.
        Can’t wait until they try to take those outdoor heating sources away from those in the Ozarks and other rural areas that have used them successfully for a life-time. I still look at property there on line from time to time. You have to know your areas there to avoid the “not so good ole boys”.

  8. Really? 200 housing units or 500 people per square mile to be considered urban? A more reasonable measure would probably show that at least 90% of people in the US live in an urban environment. The data doesn’t define suburban areas, goes straight from urban to rural. As Ken pointed out, the urbanites get to dictate to everyone else how to live, and by golly do they always try. I can’t wait for summer so I can go gold panning and try to not think about it.

    1. yea, you pretty much listed a small part of the agenda.
      What’s left after people are force into gov housing and mega cities agenda 2021/2030
      “they” just need to set the trend.

      I have never liked being around large groups/crowds of people.

    2. Speculation they added many guns intentionally that shouldn’t be on it so when pro gun people make enough of a stink about them the libs take them off the list making it look like we got a concession/won a pointless argument.
      then the “law” isn’t so bad.
      all bs

  9. Another weird phenomenon is the wind farms that the urbanites mandate upon the rural areas covering vast areas with the kinetic mayhem and blinking lights are not where they are needed, in the urban areas. The media mental programming of the population is attempting to link wind farms with the purity of rural life. Any media depiction of a wind turbine is shown as positive rural serf experience for an urbanite to utilize in their electric cars. None of the wind farm maps overlap any urban areas, yet the wind farms are an extension of urban dystopia.

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