Detailed Findings & Methodology
The population of New York City proper, for example, is 8.4 million, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data from 2018. However, the population of the city’s broader area, also known as the metropolitan statistical area, is just under 20 million. The metro area stretches from the tip of Long Island to Allentown, Pennsylvania (191 miles to the west), and from Tuckerton, New Jersey, to Kingston, New York, a 160-mile drive to the north.
In many cases, there is a third category, called the urban agglomeration, which is defined by the U.N. as the contiguous built-up area with urban density that stretches beyond the city boundaries across administrative zones over county and state lines. A suburb located in a neighboring state that is close enough for residents to commute to and from a city would not be considered part of the urban agglomeration but would often be considered part of a city’s metropolitan area.
Based on the U.N. data, only two cities in the Western Hemisphere rank among the world’s 10 most populous cities: Mexico City, with its metropolitan area population size of 21.6 million and São Paulo, with a population size of 21.7 million. Seven of the top 10 megacities are in Asia, while Cairo is on the list at No. 6 with 20.1 million.
In order to maintain an apples-to-apples comparison of city population sizes, we are relying solely on U.N. estimates. The number of megacities — defined as cities with populations greater than 10 million — grew from 28 in 2014 to 33 in 2018, more than triple the number in 1990.
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