Discover the 5 Most Populated Cities in the United States

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: July 6, 2023
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According to the Center for Sustainable Systems, 83% of Americans reside in cities. Population-dense areas are referred to as “incorporated places” by the United States Census. Cities, towns, villages, and municipalities are examples of such places in the United States. Over 300 incorporated locations in the US have a population of over 100,000. This is a significant rise from the 285 locations noted in 2012.

Thanks to the pandemic’s work-from-home culture and expanded options for remote employment, relocating to a new place has become simpler. People looking for more space and a better deal switched from expensive walk-up downtown apartments to spacious suburban homes in the West and South. Consequently, the typically large coastal cities, including New York, saw sharp population decreases.

Recent data from the Census Bureau showed the major metropolitan areas that experienced the greatest numerical losses between July 2020 and July 2021. Some of them include New York (-305,465), Chicago (-45,175), Los Angeles (-40,537), San Jose (-27,419), Philadelphia (-24,754), Dallas (-14,777) among others.

On the other hand, warm states in the South and West ranked high on the list of fastest-growing cities by numeric change during the same period. The top five are San Antonio (+13,626), Phoenix (+13,224), Fort Worth (+12,916), Port St. Lucie (+10,771), and North Las Vegas (+9,917).

While these figures confirm the growing popularity of suburban living, big cities are still in demand, despite the seeming post-pandemic decline in population. This is because they remain significant hubs of wealth and culture on a global scale. The largest of these in the United States are:

Picture graph of the 5 Most Populated Cities in the United States
These 5 cities are spread across the country: East Coast, West Coast, and in between.

Just as population increase and the possibility for future economic growth often go hand in hand, so do population and development. As a result, some of the biggest cities in the US are also the most populous. Some other important metrics to determine a prosperous city include job growth, median household income, crime rate, upward mobility rate,  tax burden, quality of life, and public utility fees.  

Whether you would rather live in a less congested city with vast areas or you are made for a large metropolis with all of its hustle and bustle, the top 5 cities, in terms of population, in the United States are listed below. Unless otherwise stated, the referenced data is from 2020.

#1 New York City, New York State

New York City merits the moniker “Big Apple,” “Melting Pot,” and “City That Never Sleeps.” It is not only the most populous city in America but also one of the most populated cities on the entire planet.

The city prides itself as the Capital City of the Modern World, and it’s easy to see why. New York is globally recognized for its influence in finance, high-end fashion, media, literature, entertainment, cultural heritage, and diverse cuisine. 

There are 8.8 million people scattered across New York’s five boroughs, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Manhattan, an island close to the mouth of the Hudson River, serves as its focal point. It plays host to the famous Wall Street and UN Headquarters. 

 The median household income in New York City is $67,046, while the median age is 36.9 years. The median value of owner-occupied housing units is estimated to be $635,200. 

Thanks to the subway system, it is pretty easy to move around without a car. The Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and The Met Fifth Avenue are just a few of the iconic landmarks in New York City.

new york city

New York is globally recognized for its influence in finance, high-end fashion, media, literature, entertainment, cultural heritage, and diverse cuisine. 

©IM_photo/Shutterstock.com

#2 Los Angeles, California

With a population of 3.9 million, the City of Angels is second on the list. Located between the Pacific Ocean on the west coast and the San Gabriel Mountains on the east, L.A. is a bustling city in Southern California and the biggest in the state. 

The average household income in Los Angeles is $65,290, with a median house value of $670,700.The average age in Los Angeles is 35.9 years, while the poverty rate is pegged at 16.9%. 

What’s not to love about La-La land? The incredible landscape for adventurous outdoor activities? Fantastic weather? Unrivaled music culture? Vibrant nightlife? Los Angeles is what it thinks it is.

How could we forget Hollywood? It’s a district in central Los Angeles that’s home to the Hollywood Boulevard and Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Dolby Theatre, the venue of the annual Academy Awards ceremony (The Oscars), is close to Hollywood Boulevard.

Aside from providing several opportunities for Hollywood celebrity sightings, LA is home to professional athletes, most notably the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. Other tourist attractions include Sunset Boulevard, Griffith Observatory, Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Getty Center, and Muscle Beach.

The Hollywood Sign, The United States

Los Angeles is known for the movie and television industry, as well as athletics, music, and vibrant nightlife.

©iStock.com/trekandshoot

#3 Chicago, Illinois

If you’re looking for a balance between aesthetic city living and moderate living cost, Chicago might be the city for you. You get the appeal of a big city without the high costs of New York, California, or Los Angeles. What could be better?

Chicago is the largest metropolis in Illinois, the Midwest, and the third largest in the country. According to the latest estimate from the Census Bureau, having recorded a 1.9% change in its population since 2010, about 2.7 million people reside in Windy City. However, 17.3% of the population lives below the poverty line. 

The average household income in Chicago is $62,097. The median house value in Chicago is $267,600, and 34.8 years is the median age.

Due to the city’s location on the stunning Lake Michigan, many of its apartments have lovely water views and are close to public transit. There’s something for everyone in this city; cultural attractions, renowned world-class shopping malls, museums, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, restaurants, and sports.

Many Americans may easily travel there by car because it is situated in Illinois and borders six other states: Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana. So it’s not surprising that the geographical mobility data showed that 15% of the population relocated to Chicago from other places in the previous year.

Chicago is the third-largest city in the country. Located on the coast of Lake Michigan, residents have access to stunning views, as well as great shopping and cultural attractions, all for a relatively moderate cost of living.

©JaySi/Shutterstock.com

#4 Houston, Texas

It’s easy to see why Houston was named the third best city in the new fDi Tier 2 Cities of the Future 2020/21. In the report by the Financial Times fDi Intelligence specialist division, which looks closely at non-capital cities with populations under eight million, Houston was ranked third in the world’s top cities for global business investment, human capital, and lifestyle.

Throw the Texas Medical Center, Houston’s harbor, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center into the mix, and you have a truly global city.  Is it a good time to mention that Houston’s harbor is one of the busiest seaports in the country?

The spacious Space City (pun intended) has a population of 2.3 million and an average value of  $186,800 in owner-occupied housing units. The median age of its residents is 33.3 years, with $53,600 as household income on average. Unfortunately, the Big Heart City has a poverty rate of 19.6%.

One thing about Houston? There’s still room for growth, especially considering the affordable housing market and the absence of income taxes. Its population has recorded a whopping 9.8% increase from 2010, while 18% of the residents moved to Houston from other locations. 

Not only is it diverse, but Houston is also full of arts, culture, and mouthwateringly fresh seafood. It hosts the Downtown Theatre District, Hermann Park, Astros Major League Baseball team, Houston Zoo, Houston Rodeo, Rothko Chapel, Lake Houston, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and many more.

houston

Houston is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Aside from being home to the space program, other highlights include its low cost of living, great business climate, lifestyle options, and renowned culinary scene.

©Silvio Ligutti/Shutterstock.com

#5 Phoenix, Arizona

Are you wondering where the closest cities to Phoenix are? The town is halfway between Los Angeles, California, and El Paso, Texas. 

As its nickname “Valley of the Sun” implies, Phoenix is situated in the northernmost part of the Sonoran Desert, one of the biggest and hottest deserts in North America, in the Salt River Valley in central Arizona. The city is traversed westward by the Salt River, a tributary of the Gila River. 

An estimated 1.61 million people live in Phoenix, the largest city in Arizona and the fifth in the country. The median value of owner-occupied housing units and average household income are $250,800 and $60,914, respectively. While 16.2% of people live below the poverty rate, the population’s median age is 33.9. 

Phoenix is the place for you if you enjoy being outside, especially in a sunny, mountainous desert climate that’s perfect for hiking, bicycling, and river rafting almost every day of the year. Compared to other major American cities, living costs are relatively affordable. The availability of public transit is another hallmark of a liveable city, and Phoenix seems to have it covered. 

Touristy places to visit in Phoenix? We’ve got you! The Papago Park, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Points of Pride, North Mountain Preserve, and OdySea Aquarium are some places you should check out.

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix boasts a sunny and dry climate, along with various outdoor activities, strong public transit, a low cost of living, and a relatively young population.

©iStock.com/BCFC

Summary of the 5 Most Populated Cities in the United States

Name of CityPopulationMedian IncomeMedian AgeMedian Housing Cost
New York City8.8M$67,04636.9$635,200
Los Angeles3.9M$65,29035.9$670,700
Chicago2.7M$62,09734.8$267,600
Houston2.3M$53,60033.3$186,800
Phoenix1.61M$60,91433.9$250,800

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. World Population Review, Available here: https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities
  2. My Move, Available here: https://www.mymove.com/city-guides/largest-us-cities/
  3. Census, Available here: https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/population-shifting-in-cities-or-towns-2021.html
  4. Business Insider, Available here: https://www.businessinsider.in/thelife/news/5-key-metrics-to-help-you-determine-which-cities-are-worth-buying-a-home-in-according-to-an-investor-who-manages-a-150-million-real-estate-portfolio/articleshow/75088503.cms