The places where most people live in America have evolved over time. At one point, the largest cities in the U.S. were all along the East Coast. At the turn of the 19th Century, Detroit had only 285,000 residents, which would grow many times by 1950 as people migrated to the city to find jobs in the car industry. Houston had fewer than 45,000 residents in 1900. That figure is 2.3 million today. Chicago was the first really big city in the center of the country. It had over 1.6 million residents in 1900.
The migration of Americans to the West Coast triggered the rise of large cities, but that happened decades after cities in the middle of the country became large metro areas. Los Angeles had only 100,000 residents in 1900. Today, the figure is just below 3.9 million. At about the same time, the largest cities in Texas also started to grow.
Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 39% of the American population — which totals 328.2 million — reside in cities of at least 50,000 people. But out of the roughly 19,500 incorporated cities, towns, and villages in the United States as of 2018, only slightly more than 300 of them had populations above 100,000 people; only 89 had more than 250,000 people; and only 10 were home to a million or more residents.
To determine the largest city in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed population data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, assembling a list of the 50 most populous. For each of these cities, we also collected land area and total area (land and water) from the Census Bureau’s TIGERweb data files. (Area figures are current as of Jan. 1, 2021, except those for Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky, which date from 2010).
America’s largest is New York, New York. Here are the details:
> Population: 8,336,817
> Total area (including water) in square miles: 472.4 — #11 of 625 cities
> Land area square miles: 300.5 — #21 of 625 cities
> Population density per sq mile of land area: 27,747 — #2 of 625 cities