Infographic: The 10 Most Populous U.S. Cities, Every Decade Since 1790
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The 10 Most Populous U.S. Cities, Every Decade Since 1790

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The 10 Most Populous U.S. Cities, Every Decade Since 1790

The 10 Most Populous U.S. Cities, Every Decade Since 1790

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There are only two cities that have had the distinction of being named the most populous city in the United States.

The first city to hold the title was Philadelphia, as the City of Brotherly Love was estimated to be the biggest city in the country at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

However, by the time of the first U.S. Census in 1790, New York City had surpassed Philadelphia by a few thousand residents – and the Big Apple has stayed the largest in the country ever since.

From Then to Now

Today’s infographic comes to us from Liberty Cruise, and it ranks the 10 most populous cities in the United States for every decade since 1790.

To start, let’s take a look at what the list looked just after the first U.S. Census in 1790:

RankCityPopulation (1790)
#1New York City, NY33,131
#2Philadelphia, PA28,522
#3Boston, MA18,320
#4Charleston, SC16,359
#5Baltimore, MD13,503
#6Northern Liberties Township, PA9,913
#7Salem, MA7,921
#8Newport, RI6,716
#9Providence, RI6,380
#10Marblehead, MA5,661

It’s pretty surreal to think that some of the biggest cities in the late 18th century hosted no more than 6,000 residents.

It also may be a surprise to many that Rhode Island – a state that ranks 50th in size and 44th in population today – held two of the largest towns in the nation at the time: Newport and Providence.

The Modern List

Jump forward over 200 years, and New York City has not lost its top spot.

It helped that NYC was able to absorb Brooklyn – one of the country’s other largest cities – into its boundaries in 1898. Other major cities saw similar merges happen over the years, with Philadelphia absorbing Northern Liberties Township, for example.

Here is a list of the most populous U.S. cities in 2017 (est.):

RankCityPopulation (Est. 2017)Population (2010 Census)Change
#1New York City, NY8,622,6988,175,133+5.47%
#2Los Angeles, CA3,999,7593,792,621+5.46%
#3Chicago, IL2,716,4502,695,598+0.77%
#4Houston, TX2,312,7172,100,263+10.12%
#5Phoenix, AZ1,626,0781,445,632+12.48%
#6Philadelphia, PA1,580,8631,526,006+3.59%
#7San Antonio, TX1,511,9461,327,407+13.90%
#8San Diego, CA1,419,5161,307,402+8.58%
#9Dallas TX1,341,0751,197,816+11.96%
#10San Jose, CA1,035,317945,942+9.45%

In contrast to the NYC of today, the 1790 population looks more like a Long Island suburb.

This rapid urbanization is mainly thanks to Industrial Revolution, which triggered a massive migration to cities, allowing New York to grow 26,000% in total population.

Here’s how the population distribution of New York City’s five boroughs has changed over time:

NYC Borough population over time

Interested in learning more about the country’s largest cities?

See the electrifying pulse of a Manhattan workday or view a 3d map that shows how much U.S. metro areas contribute to economic growth.

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Demographics

Ranked: The World’s Fastest Growing Cities

Nearly 60% of the world’s population lives in cities and this trend is not slowing down—take a look at the world’s 20 fastest growing cities.

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fastest growing cities

Ranked: The World’s Fastest Growing Cities

By 2025, the world’s population will reach over 8.1 billion people.

Most of that population growth will be concentrated in cities across Africa and Asia. To help paint a detailed picture, this map uses data from the United Nations to rank the top 20 fastest growing cities in the world in terms of average annual growth rate from 2020 to 2025.

Full Speed Ahead

The majority of the world’s fastest growing cities are located in Africa—in fact, 17 of the 20 are located on the continent, with four of the 20 cities being located in Nigeria specifically.

Population growth is booming across the entire continent, as many countries retain high birth rates. According to the World Bank, the 2019 fertility rate (births per woman) in Sub-Saharan Africa was 4.6, compared to the global fertility rate of 2.4.

CityCountryContinentAnnual Growth (2020-2025p)
Gwagwalada🇳🇬 NigeriaAfrica6.46%
Kabinda🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of CongoAfrica6.37%
Rupganj🇧🇩 BangladeshAsia6.36%
Lokoja🇳🇬 NigeriaAfrica5.93%
Uige🇦🇴 AngolaAfrica5.92%
Bujumbura🇧🇮 BurundiAfrica5.75%
Songea🇹🇿 TanzaniaAfrica5.74%
Xiongan🇨🇳 ChinaAsia5.69%
Potiskum🇳🇬 NigeriaAfrica5.65%
Bunia🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of CongoAfrica5.63%
Tete🇲🇿 MozambiqueAfrica5.56%
Cuito🇦🇴 AngolaAfrica5.48%
Hosur🇮🇳 IndiaAsia5.38%
Abomey-Calavi🇧🇯 BeninAfrica5.27%
Nnewi🇳🇬 NigeriaAfrica5.18%
Malanje🇦🇴 AngolaAfrica5.17%
Mbouda🇨🇲 CameroonAfrica5.16%
Quelimane🇲🇿 MozambiqueAfrica5.14%
Kampala🇺🇬 UgandaAfrica5.14%
Goma🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of CongoAfrica5.14%

Nigeria’s economy is largely based on petroleum which has resulted in the country becoming one of the strongest economies in Africa. This, coupled with a high birth rate and a resulting young population, has given the country a strong and rising workforce.

However, the population growth in Nigeria is both a blessing and a curse. The success of the economy, among other factors, has resulted in excessive rural-to-urban migration. This mass exodus from rural areas has led to less farming, which means the country now needs to import basic food staples at a high cost.

In Mozambique, Tete and Quelimane are growing 5.56% and 5.14% respectively. The country is expected to experience strong economic growth after facing contractions due to the pandemic. Forecasts predict that the Mozambiques’s economy will grow 4% by 2022.

Implications of Fast Growth

All of the top 20 fastest growing cities are located in either Africa or Asia, and they are far outpacing growth on other continents, such as Europe, for example.

Fastest Growing Cities: Europe vs. Global

Europe's Fastest Growing CitiesGrowth RateWorld's Fastest Growing CitiesGrowth Rate
🇷🇺 Balashikha, Russia2.01%🇳🇬 Gwagwalada6.46%
🇷🇺 Tyumen, Russia 1.88%🇨🇩 Kabinda6.37%
🇦🇱 Tiranë (Tirana), Albania1.63%🇧🇩 Rupganj6.36%
🇳🇴 Oslo, Norway 1.38%🇳🇬 Lokoja5.93%
🇷🇺 Sochi, Russia1.33%🇦🇴 Uige5.92%
🇬🇧 Coventry-Bedworth, UK1.32%🇧🇮 Bujumbura5.75%
🇸🇪 Stockholm, Sweden1.25%🇹🇿 Songea5.74%
🇨🇭 Lausanne, Switzerland1.23%🇨🇳 Xiongan5.69%
🇷🇺 Krasnodar, Russia1.22%🇳🇬 Potiskum5.65%
🇷🇺 Surgut, Russia1.17%🇨🇩 Bunia5.63%
🇷🇺 Podolsk, Russia1.16%🇲🇿 Tete5.56%
🇮🇪 Dublin, Ireland1.12%🇦🇴 Cuito5.48%
🇬🇧 London, UK1.12%🇮🇳 Hosur5.38%
🇳🇱 Utrecht, Netherlands1.11%🇧🇯 Abomey-Calavi5.27%
🇸🇪 Göteborg, Sweden1.07%🇳🇬 Nnewi5.18%
🇫🇷 Toulouse, France1.07%🇦🇴 Malanje5.17%
🇸🇪 Malmö, Sweden1.05%🇨🇲 Mbouda5.16%
🇫🇷 Montpellier, France1.04%🇲🇿 Quelimane5.14%
🇫🇷 Bordeaux, France0.99%🇺🇬 Kampala5.14%
🇨🇭 Genève, Switzerland0.99%🇨🇩 Goma5.14%

By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to close to 2 billion people and roughly half will be under the age of 25. This represents an enormous labor force and opportunities for innovation and growth. In fact, in navigating the pandemic, Africa is already starting to capitalize on digital advances in both traditional and new sectors.

China has its eye on Africa, as evidenced through their multiple investments in infrastructure projects in the continent. Additionally, NATO countries have recently committed to investing similar amounts in Africa to counter China’s influence.

In spite of the economic potential, increased city sizes could be problematic for some of these countries. They will need to adapt to the issues associated with mass urbanization, like pollution, overcrowding, and high costs of living.

Changing Tides

Population booms can lead to massive economic growth, a larger (and younger) working population, and a growing domestic consumer market.

As the aforementioned cities continue their rapid expansion, and as people continue to flock to growing megacities in Africa and Asia, it could represent the beginning of an important economic shift that is worth keeping an eye on.

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Markets

Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America

Compared to January 2020, 34% of small businesses are currently closed. This map looks at the small business recovery rate in 50 metro areas.

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Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America

In the business news cycle, headlines are often dominated by large corporations, macroeconomic news, or government action.

While mom and pop might not always be in focus, collectively small businesses are a powerful and influential piece of the economy. In fact, 99.9% of all businesses in the U.S. qualify as small businesses, collectively employing almost half (47.3%) of the nation’s private workforce.

Unfortunately, they’ve also been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy amid the pandemic. From the CARES Act to the new budget proposal, billions of dollars have been allocated towards helping small businesses to get back on their feet.

Small Business Recovery in 50 Metro Areas

During the pandemic, many small businesses have either swiftly pivoted to survive, or struggled to stay afloat. This map pulls data from Opportunity Insights to examine the small business recovery rate in 50 metro areas across America.

So, has the situation improved since the last time we examined this data? The short answer is no—on a national scale, 34% of small businesses are closed compared to January 2020.

San Francisco is one of the most affected metro areas, with a 48% closure rate of small businesses. New York City has spiralled the most since the end of September 2020.

U.S. Metro Area% Change in # of
Small Businesses Open
(As of Sep 25, 2020)
% Change in # of
Small Businesses Open
(As of Apr 23, 2021)
7-month change (p.p.)
Albuquerque-23%-34%-11
Atlanta-26%-35%-9
Austin-32%-38%-6
Bakersfield-31%-35%-4
Baltimore-28%-35%-7
Boston-33%-47%-14
Charlotte-18%-28%-10
Chicago-27%-38%-11
Cleveland-26%-34%-8
Colorado Springs-23%-28%-5
Columbus-21%-28%-7
Dallas-Fort Worth-21%-28%-7
Denver-25%-29%-4
Detroit-28%-38%-10
El Paso-25%-26%-1
Fresno-26%-30%-4
Honolulu-41%-25%+16
Houston-30%-34%-4
Indianapolis-25%-34%-9
Jacksonville-18%-28%-10
Kansas City-15%-26%-11
Las Vegas-22%-30%-8
Los Angeles-27%-34%-7
Louisville-23%-35%-12
Memphis-21%-24%-3
Miami-23%-34%-11
Milwaukee-22%-27%-5
Minneapolis-21%-29%-8
Nashville-21%-26%-5
New Orleans-45%-39%+6
New York City-21%-42%-21
Oakland-32%-35%-3
Oklahoma City-26%-35%-9
Philadelphia-24%-31%-7
Phoenix-19%-31%-12
Portland-34%-36%-2
Raleigh-16%-29%-13
Sacramento-33%-34%-1
Salt Lake City-18%-23%-5
San Antonio-34%-40%-6
San Diego-28%-38%-10
San Francisco-49%-48%+2
San Jose-35%-44%-9
Seattle-28%-30%-2
Tampa-22%-40%-18
Tucson-27%-28%-1
Tulsa-23%-32%-9
Virginia Beach--36%0
Washington DC-37%-47%-10
Wichita-15%-28%-13

Data as of Apr 23, 2021 and indexed to Jan 4-31, 2020.

On the flip side, Honolulu has seen the most improvement. As travel and tourism numbers into Hawaii have steadily risen up with lifted nationwide restrictions, there has been a 16 p.p. increase in open businesses compared to September 2020.

Road to a K-Shaped Recovery

As of April 25, 2021, nearly 42% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, even with this rapid vaccine rollout, various segments of the economy aren’t recovering at the same pace.

Take for instance the stark difference between professional services and the leisure and hospitality sector. Though small business revenues in both segments have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, the latter has much more catching up to do:

Small Business Recovery Supplemental - Business Revenues

This uneven phenomena is known as a K-shaped recovery, where some industries see more improvement compared to others that stagnate in the aftermath of a recession.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Endures

Despite these continued hardships, it appears that many Americans have not been deterred from starting their own businesses.

Many small businesses require an Employer Identification Number (EIN) which makes EIN applications a good proxy for business formation activity. Despite an initial dip in the early months of the pandemic, there has been a dramatic spike in EIN business applications.

ein business applications

Even in the face of a global pandemic, the perseverance of such metrics prove that the innovative American spirit is unwavering, and spells better days to come for small business recovery.

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