Largest cities in the United States by population by decade

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For a more extensive list of present population estimates, see List of United States cities by population.
Population as a function of time for cities that have appeared in the top 10 since 1790. Note that the logarithmic scale means that the observed slope gives the percentage growth, not the absolute growth.
Linear visualization of population of the United States cities only when they are among the top 10

This list tracks and ranks the population of the top 10 largest cities and other urban places in the United States by decade, as reported by each decennial United States Census, starting with the 1790 Census. For 1790 through 1990, tables are taken from the U.S Census Bureau's "Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990."[1] For year 2000 rankings, data from the Census Bureau's tally of "Cities with 100,000 or More Population Ranked by Selected Subject" is used.[2] The 2010 rankings are based on the 2010 census results.[3]

The Census Bureau's definition of an "urban place" has included a variety of designations, including city, town, township, village, borough, and municipality. The top 10 urban areas in 1790 consisted of various places designated as cities, towns and townships. The top 10 urban areas in 2010 are all separate incorporated places.

This list generally refers only to the population of individual urban places within their defined limits at the time of the indicated census. Some of these places have since been annexed or merged into other cities. Other places may have expanded their borders due to such annexation or consolidation. For example, after the 1898 consolidation of New York City, the Census Bureau has defined all the boroughs within its city limits as one "urban place". Similarly, Philadelphia's population has included the census counts within both the former urban areas of Northern Liberties, Pennsylvania and Southwark, Pennsylvania ever since Philadelphia's 1854 consolidation.


Philadelphia had been the most populous city in the United States before any census count. When the first U.S. census count was done in 1790, New York had barely overtaken Philadelphia as the most populous city in the country (though Philadelphia still had the larger metropolitan population in 1790).

1New York CityNew York33,131New York ranked as the nation's most populous city at the time of the first census count.[a]
2PhiladelphiaPennsylvania28,522Prior to 1854, the term "Philadelphia" referred to present-day Center City. The 1854 Act of Consolidation greatly expanded the City of Philadelphia to its present borders, coterminous with Philadelphia County. Philadelphia has remained on the top 10 list of largest American cities throughout its history.
3BostonMassachusetts18,320Listed as a town in the 1790 census; presently a city.
4CharlestonSouth Carolina16,359
5BaltimoreMaryland13,503Existed as a town at the time; now an independent city.
6Northern LibertiesPennsylvania9,913Township now absorbed in Philadelphia. See Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
7SalemMassachusetts7,921Listed as a town in the 1790 census; presently a city.
8NewportRhode Island6,716Listed as a town in the 1790 census; presently a city.
9ProvidenceRhode Island6,380Listed as a town in the 1790 census; presently a city.
10MarbleheadMassachusetts5,661Still a town as of 2014.
SouthwarkPennsylvania5,661Before the 1854 Act of Consolidation, Southwark was an independent municipality; it is now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

The total population of these 11 cities was 152,087.


1New York CityNew York60,515
4BostonMassachusetts24,937Listed as a town.
5CharlestonSouth Carolina18,824
6Northern LibertiesPennsylvania10,718Now a neighborhood in Philadelphia.
7SouthwarkPennsylvania9,621Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
8SalemMassachusetts9,457Listed as a town. Today, Salem is a city.
9ProvidenceRhode Island7,614Listed as a town. Last appearance in top ten.
10NorfolkVirginia6,926Listed as a borough. Now an independent city.

The total population of these 10 cities was 216,346.


1New York CityNew York96,373
5CharlestonSouth Carolina24,711
6Northern LibertiesPennsylvania19,874Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
7New OrleansLouisiana17,242First entry in the top 10 list not located in one of the original 13 colonies.
8SouthwarkPennsylvania13,707Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
9SalemMassachusetts12,613Listed as a town. Today, Salem is a city.
10AlbanyNew York10,762

The total population of these 10 cities was 329,346.


1New York CityNew York123,706New York was the first city in the U.S. to surpass 100,000 people in population.
5New OrleansLouisiana27,176
6CharlestonSouth Carolina24,780
7Northern LibertiesPennsylvania19,678Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
8SouthwarkPennsylvania14,713Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
9WashingtonDistrict of Columbia13,247First appearance of the new capital in the top 10. Would disappear from the list by next census and not appear on top 10 till 1950.
10SalemMassachusetts12,731Listed as a town in 1820 census. Today, Salem is a city.

The total population of these 10 cities was 405,869.


1New York CityNew York202,589
2BaltimoreMaryland80,620Baltimore is the second city to rank number two.
5New OrleansLouisiana46,082
6CharlestonSouth Carolina30,289
7Northern LibertiesPennsylvania28,872Now a neighborhood in Philadelphia.
8CincinnatiOhio24,831Listed as a town. First appearance on top 10 from a Midwestern state.
9AlbanyNew York24,209
10SouthwarkPennsylvania20,581Now a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

The total population of these 10 cities was 599,927.


1New York CityNew York312,710
2BaltimoreMaryland102,313Baltimore is likely the second city in the U.S. to surpass the 100,000 population mark.
3New OrleansLouisiana102,193New Orleans' rapid growth shows the increasing importance of Mississippi River trade.
6CincinnatiOhio46,338Listed as a town.
7BrooklynNew York36,233At this time, Brooklyn was a city.
8Northern LibertiesPennsylvania34,474Now a neighborhood in Philadelphia.
9AlbanyNew York33,721
10CharlestonSouth Carolina29,261Charleston lost population between the 1830 and 1840 censuses. Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 884,291.


By 1850, the United States was in the midst of the First Industrial Revolution.

1New York CityNew York515,547
5New OrleansLouisiana116,375
7BrooklynNew York96,838
8St. LouisMissouri77,860First Top 10 appearance of any city west of the Mississippi River.
9Spring GardenPennsylvania58,894Now a neighborhood of Philadelphia.
10AlbanyNew York50,763Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 1,459,023.


1860 was the eve of the American Civil War. This was the eighth United States Census.

1New York CityNew York813,669
2PhiladelphiaPennsylvania565,529The large jump in population between the seventh and eighth censuses is due to the 1854 Act of Consolidation, which greatly expanded the City of Philadelphia to be coterminous with Philadelphia County, and abolished all other local governments in the county. The "Philadelphia" prior to 1854 is present-day Center City.
3BrooklynNew York266,661
6New OrleansLouisiana168,675
8St. LouisMissouri160,773
9ChicagoIllinois112,172First appearance in the top 10. In the previous census, it was the 24th largest American city with a population of 29,963. Chicago would be one of the world's fastest growing cities in its infancy.
10BuffaloNew York81,129First appearance in the top 10. Would disappear from list by next census and not re-appear until 1900.

The total population of these 10 cities was 2,719,910.


This was the ninth United States Census.

1New York CityNew York942,292

A slight drop in the rise of population due to the war.

3BrooklynNew York396,099
4St. LouisMissouri310,864

The 1870 St. Louis Census total may have been slightly boosted by fraud. [b]

5ChicagoIllinois298,977Census was taken one year before the Great Chicago Fire, which burned down a large portion of the city.
9New OrleansLouisiana191,418
10San FranciscoCalifornia149,473First west coast city in the Top 10. Its population boom began after 1848 with the Gold Rush and continued with silver discoveries such as the Comstock Lode in 1859.

The total population of these 10 cities was 3,697,264.


1New York CityNew York1,206,299This marks the first time the population of a U.S. city exceeds 1 million.
3BrooklynNew York566,663
4ChicagoIllinois503,185Great Chicago Fire destroyed approx. one third of the city's infrastructure in 1871.
6St. LouisMissouri350,518The city of St. Louis seceded from St. Louis County in 1876.[b] The population of St. Louis City and St. Louis County during the Census was ~386,000[14]
9San FranciscoCalifornia233,959
10New OrleansLouisiana216,090Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 4,874,175.


The 1890 Census was the Eleventh.

1New York CityNew York1,515,301This is the last census before New York was consolidated into The Five Boroughs (therefore the figure is that of New York County (which at the time consisted of Manhattan and what later would become The Bronx).
2ChicagoIllinois1,099,850Chicago overtakes Philadelphia as the nation's second most populous city and likely becomes the second city in the nation to surpass the 1 million mark.
4BrooklynNew York806,343This is the last census where the City of Brooklyn is independent. It would be absorbed into New York City.
5St. LouisMissouri451,770
8San FranciscoCalifornia298,997
10ClevelandOhio261,353First appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 6,660,402.


The 1900 Census was the Twelfth.

1New York CityNew York3,437,202This is the first census after the creation of The Five Boroughs.
4St. LouisMissouri575,238
8BuffaloNew York352,387Re-appearance in the top 10 (last 1860).
9San FranciscoCalifornia342,782Last appearance in the top 10 before the 1906 earthquake and fire.
10CincinnatiOhio325,902Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 9,477,400.


The 1910 Census was the Thirteenth.

1New York CityNew York4,766,883Much of the population of New York City was in Manhattan, which reached its historical high of over 2.3 million. However, the other boroughs began to grow rapidly as the Interborough Rapid Transit system expanded.
4St. LouisMissouri687,029
8PittsburghPennsylvania533,905Pittsburgh entered the Top 10 after annexing the neighboring city of Allegheny in 1907. This is now the city's North Side.
9DetroitMichigan465,766First appearance in the top 10.
10BuffaloNew York423,715Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 12,401,322.


The 1920 Census was the Fourteenth.

1New York CityNew York5,620,048
4DetroitMichigan993,078The rise of the automobile industry in the Detroit area propelled its growth substantially between 1910 and 1920, doubling its population in only 10 years.
5ClevelandOhio796,841Only time in the top five
6St. LouisMissouri772,897
10Los AngelesCalifornia576,673Los Angeles makes the top ten for the first time.

The total population of these 10 cities was 15,355,250.


The 1930 Census was the Fifteenth.

1New York CityNew York6,930,446
5Los AngelesCalifornia1,238,048First West Coast city to make the Top 5.
7St. LouisMissouri821,960

The total population of these 10 cities was 19,042,823.


Four of the ten cities here would have their first ever population drop in 1940. Though slight, they would presage a precipitous decline that started in 1950. The 1940 Census was the Sixteenth.

1New York CityNew York7,457,995
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,931,334First ever population drop for Philadelphia.
5Los AngelesCalifornia1,504,277
6ClevelandOhio878,336First ever population drop for Cleveland.
8St. LouisMissouri816,048First ever population drop for St. Louis.
9BostonMassachusetts770,816First ever population drop for Boston.
10PittsburghPennsylvania671,659Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 19,909,825.


1950 was a watershed year for many cities in the United States. Many cities in the country peaked in population, and began a slow decline caused by suburbanization associated with pollution, congestion, and increased crime rates in inner cities, while the improved infrastructure of the Eisenhower Interstate System more easily facilitated car commutes and so-called white flight of the white middle class. The G.I. Bill made available low interest loans for returning white World War II veterans seeking more commodious housing in the suburbs. Although populations within city limits dropped in many American cities, the metropolitan populations of most cities continued to increase greatly.

1New York CityNew York7,891,957
2ChicagoIllinois3,620,962Population peaked this census.
3PhiladelphiaPennsylvania2,071,605Population peaked this census.
4Los AngelesCalifornia1,970,358Los Angeles is one of the few cities to have nearly continuous growth since 1950.
5DetroitMichigan1,849,568Population peaked. As of 2013, Detroit is the only city in the United States to have a population grow beyond 1 million and then fall below that figure.
6BaltimoreMaryland949,708Population peaked this census.
7ClevelandOhio914,808Population peaked this census.
8St. LouisMissouri856,796Population peaked this census.
9WashingtonDistrict of Columbia802,178Population peaked this census. Re-appearance in the top 10 (last in 1820).
10BostonMassachusetts801,444Population peaked this census. Last appearance in top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 21,729,384.


The 1960 Census was the Eighteenth.

1New York CityNew York7,781,984First ever population drop for New York City.
2ChicagoIllinois3,550,404First ever population drop for Chicago.
3Los AngelesCalifornia2,479,015
5DetroitMichigan1,670,144First ever population drop for Detroit.
7HoustonTexas938,219First appearance in the top 10 and first Texas city.
9WashingtonDistrict of Columbia763,956
10St. LouisMissouri750,026Last appearance in the top 10. First time the population of the 10th largest city is less than the decade before.

The total population of these 10 cities was 20,962,889.


The 1970 Census was the Nineteenth.

1New York CityNew York7,894,862
3Los AngelesCalifornia2,816,061
6HoustonTexas1,232,802Sixth city in the US to surpass 1 million.
8DallasTexas844,401First appearance in top 10.
9WashingtonDistrict of Columbia756,510Last appearance on top 10.
10ClevelandOhio750,903Last appearance on top 10. Cleveland is notably smaller by population and larger by area, therefore less dense than it was in 1920.

The total population of these 10 cities was 22,028,346.


By 1980, the trends towards suburbanization started in the 1950s continued. City population continued to grow in the west and south.[24]

1New York CityNew York7,071,639New York City experiences the largest loss of people within a city in American history when it loses nearly 825,000 people in only a ten-year span. The city experienced severe financial strains and near bankruptcy of the local government during the 1970s until it was bailed out by the federal government.
2ChicagoIllinois3,005,072Chicago for the last time ranked the second most populous city.
3Los AngelesCalifornia2,966,850
8San DiegoCalifornia875,538First appearance in the top 10.
9PhoenixArizona789,704First appearance in the top 10.
10BaltimoreMaryland786,775Last appearance in the top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 20,886,343.


By 1990, trends had continued that started during the 1970s: Western and southern cities continued to grow in size and population, and northeastern cities generally lost population.[25]

1New York CityNew York7,322,564New York City gained population during the 1980s after heavy losses in the 1970s.
2Los AngelesCalifornia3,485,398Los Angeles becomes the nation's second largest city.
3ChicagoIllinois2,783,726After nearly 100 years as the nation's second largest city Chicago is surpassed by Los Angeles and becomes the third largest city.
4HoustonTexas1,630,553Houston jumps just slightly ahead of Philadelphia, becoming the nation's fourth largest city.
6San DiegoCalifornia1,110,549San Diego is the 2nd California city to pass the 1 million mark.
8DallasTexas1,006,877Dallas is the 2nd city in Texas to pass the 1 million mark.
10San AntonioTexas935,933First appearance in top 10.

The total population of these 10 cities was 21,872,554.


1New York CityNew York8,008,278Surpasses 8 million for the first time.
2Los AngelesCalifornia3,694,820Los Angeles surpasses Chicago's peak population, but growth is noticeably slower than previous decades.
3ChicagoIllinois2,896,016Chicago gained population during the 1990s.
6PhoenixArizona1,321,045First city in Arizona to surpass 1 million.
7San DiegoCalifornia1,223,400
9San AntonioTexas1,144,646San Antonio is the 3rd city in Texas to surpass the 1 million mark.
10DetroitMichigan951,270Detroit's last appearance in the top 10; (fell to #18 in the 2010 census).

The total population of these 10 cities was 23,899,236.


Seven of the country's ten largest cities in 2010 were located in the Sun Belt region of the south and west, all of which have far lower population density than their earlier top-ranking counterparts. A different ranking is evident when considering U.S. metro area populations which count both city and suburban populations.

1New York CityNew York8,175,133
2Los AngelesCalifornia3,792,621
3ChicagoIllinois2,695,598Population loss after gain in 2000 census
4HoustonTexas2,099,451First city in Texas to surpass the 2 million mark
5PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,526,006First population gain since 1950
7San AntonioTexas1,327,407
8San DiegoCalifornia1,307,402
10San JoseCalifornia945,942First appearance in top 10

The total population of these 10 cities was 24,513,008.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Jackson, Kenneth T. (1985). Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504983-7. , Chapter 8: "Suburbs Into Neighborhoods: The Rise and Fall of Municipal Annexation."
  2. ^ a b Arenson, Adam (2011). The great heart of the republic: St. Louis and the cultural Civil War. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. p. 191-192. ISBN 0674052889.


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