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

Does a City’s Population Size Impact its Quality of Life?

Are big cities all they’re cracked up to be? These interactive charts about population size question whether bigger always equals better.

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comparing population size to quality of life in 200 cities worldwide

Does a City’s Population Size Impact its Quality of Life?

City living isn’t everyone’s cup of tea—the world’s most populous cities especially can be hectic, noisy, and busy.

Yet, despite the chaos of urban life, cities offer inhabitants a number of comforts and conveniences that are harder to find in smaller towns. That’s why more people are moving into urban areas around the world.

But do these conveniences reflect in people’s quality of lives?

According to research compiled by Elaine Siu, bigger doesn’t always mean better—at least when it comes to population size. This interactive visualization takes a deep dive into this dataset.

Measuring Quality of Life

Siu uses data from Numbeo’s 2022 Quality of Life Index to compare the quality of life in nearly 200 different cities around the world. For the purposes of this research, Siu used cities with metropolitan area populations of over 500,000.

The index measures quality of life using eight different metrics:

  • Cost of Living
  • Purchasing Power
  • Property Price to Income Ratio
  • Pollution
  • Traffic Commute Time
  • Safety
  • Healthcare
  • Climate

A majority of the metrics (six of the eight) seemed to correlate with population size, suggesting that the bigger a city’s population is, the lower its quality of life in those metrics.

Here’s a look at the full list of cities included in the study, along with their overall quality of life scores and their metro area populations:

CityQuality of Life IndexMetro Area Population
Adelaide, Australia212.141,355,522
The Hague (Den Haag), Netherlands204.88709,388
Perth, Australia198.372,092,649
Zurich, Switzerland198.141,419,621
Basel, Switzerland197.58566,503
Brisbane, Australia196.062,472,222
Charlotte, NC, United States194.312,701,046
Seattle, WA, United States194.34,018,762
Oklahoma City, OK, United States192.791,441,647
Austin, TX, United States192.562,352,426
Geneva, Switzerland192.15626,618
Quebec City, Canada192.11837,814
Columbus, OH, United States191.342,151,017
San Diego, CA, United States188.183,286,069
San Antonio, TX, United States188.142,601,788
Copenhagen, Denmark187.891,370,131
San Jose, CA, United States187.161,952,185
Edinburgh, United Kingdom185.01548,206
Sydney, Australia184.525,056,571
Melbourne, Australia183.065,150,766
Kansas City, MO, United States181.282,199,490
Albuquerque, NM, United States181.09918,259
Helsinki, Finland180.211,327,762
Vienna, Austria180.011,960,023
Glasgow, United Kingdom179.791,688,907
Gothenburg, Sweden179.12624,780
Dubai, United Arab Emirates178.962,964,382
Calgary, Canada178.341,611,475
Amsterdam, Netherlands178.171,165,898
Ottawa, Canada177.091,422,635
Portland, OR, United States176.922,511,612
Dallas, TX, United States175.717,759,615
Jacksonville, FL, United States175.251,637,666
Munich, Germany174.981,566,128
Boston, MA, United States174.524,899,932
Muscat, Oman174.071,622,620
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates173.131,539,830
Frankfurt, Germany173.06791,232
Vancouver, Canada172.662,631,690
Stuttgart, Germany172634,740
Rotterdam, Netherlands171.721,014,675
Milwaukee, WI, United States171.441,566,487
Edmonton, Canada171.231,518,921
Indianapolis, IN, United States171.22,126,804
Houston, TX, United States170.97,206,841
Valencia, Spain170.88836,857
Tucson, AZ, United States168.761,052,030
Denver, CO, United States167.362,972,566
Hamburg, Germany166.711,788,170
Vilnius, Lithuania165.74540,775
Oslo, Norway164.941,071,062
Nashville, TN, United States164.872,012,476
Bristol, United Kingdom164.74700,630
Atlanta, GA, United States163.996,144,050
Berlin, Germany163.743,570,750
Sacramento, CA, United States163.542,411,428
Washington, DC, United States162.886,356,434
Queretaro, Mexico162.061,389,302
Stockholm, Sweden161.541,679,050
Auckland, New Zealand1611,652,341
Cologne, Germany160.821,136,992
Baltimore, MD, United States160.362,838,327
Tokyo, Japan160.2737,274,000
Belfast, United Kingdom159.26638,717
Prague, Czech Republic158.871,318,085
San Francisco, CA, United States157.574,623,264
Zagreb, Croatia157.5684,254
Madrid, Spain157.336,713,557
Porto, Portugal157.261,320,347
Antwerp, Belgium155.31,052,622
Toronto, Canada155.026,312,974
Singapore, Singapore154.546,039,577
Philadelphia, PA, United States154.136,228,601
Montreal, Canada153.764,276,526
Doha, Qatar153.1651,799
Phoenix, AZ, United States151.954,946,145
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia150.727,538,200
Lisbon, Portugal150.092,986,162
Birmingham, United Kingdom149.322,645,598
Manama, Bahrain148.96688,558
Lyon, France148.341,747,575
Las Vegas, NV, United States148.172,292,476
Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel147.844,343,584
Manchester, United Kingdom147.472,770,434
Riga, Latvia145.54624,925
Bursa, Turkey145.272,054,748
Cape Town, South Africa145.054,800,954
Chicago, IL, United States144.819,509,934
Jeddah (Jiddah), Saudi Arabia144.44,780,740
Barcelona, Spain143.735,658,472
Brussels, Belgium143.122,109,631
Genoa, Italy142.82675,464
Coimbatore, India142.772,934,621
Hamilton, Canada142.74775,751
Bangalore, India141.6713,193,035
Dublin, Ireland140.931,255,963
Curitiba, Brazil140.073,770,919
Los Angeles, CA, United States139.7512,997,353
Nizhny Novgorod, Russia139.251,252,917
Durban, South Africa139.093,199,329
Islamabad, Pakistan1391,198,035
Bologna, Italy139811,707
Pune, India138.286,987,077
Taipei, Taiwan137.812,742,379
New York, NY, United States137.3219,768,458
Brasilia, Brazil135.444,803,877
Winnipeg, Canada133.69832,944
Pretoria, South Africa133.252,739,768
Warsaw, Poland133.211,794,532
Detroit, MI, United States133.054,365,205
Johannesburg, South Africa132.586,065,354
Izmir, Turkey131.523,056,149
Turin, Italy131.351,798,471
Lviv, Ukraine129.85721,383
Poznan, Poland129.38525,919
Wroclaw, Poland128.45642,497
Guadalajara, Mexico128.145,339,583
Chiang Mai, Thailand127.811,197,931
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates127.771,785,684
Budapest, Hungary127.231,775,207
Ankara, Turkey126.935,309,690
London, United Kingdom126.149,540,576
Monterrey, Mexico125.765,036,535
Campinas, Brazil125.753,384,564
Seoul, South Korea125.669,975,709
Lodz, Poland124666,032
Krakow (Cracow), Poland123.44769,595
Paris, France123.0211,142,303
Sofia, Bulgaria122.031,286,789
Medellin, Colombia121.784,067,758
Montevideo, Uruguay119.581,767,243
Yerevan, Armenia119.461,092,028
San Juan, Puerto Rico118.972,442,512
Florianopolis, Brazil118.921,277,547
Milan, Italy118.573,149,223
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia117.78,419,566
Bucharest, Romania117.581,785,294
Kuwait City, Kuwait116.643,238,523
Athens, Greece115.693,153,781
Quito, Ecuador115.331,928,296
Thessaloniki, Greece115.32813,793
San Jose, Costa Rica115.021,441,324
Chennai, India114.5111,503,293
Amman, Jordan114.372,209,584
Ahmedabad, India113.048,450,228
Hyderabad, India112.5310,534,418
Tbilisi, Georgia112.191,080,349
Panama City, Panama110.941,937,963
Rome, Italy109.984,297,877
Belgrade, Serbia109.821,405,192
Kharkiv, Ukraine109.511,423,343
Shenzhen, China109.1112,831,330
Baku, Azerbaijan109.12,401,108
Moscow, Russia108.3212,640,818
Minsk, Belarus107.792,048,574
Porto Alegre, Brazil107.744,185,488
Belo Horizonte, Brazil107.26,194,292
Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine106.883,010,209
Odessa (Odesa), Ukraine106.411,007,989
Lahore, Pakistan106.0113,541,764
Hong Kong, Hong Kong103.857,643,256
Santiago, Chile103.16,856,939
Skopje, North Macedonia101.02605,996
Kolkata, India99.3715,133,888
Buenos Aires, Argentina99.2315,369,919
Saint Petersburg, Russia97.915,535,556
Dnipro, Ukraine97.76946,574
Istanbul, Turkey96.1315,636,243
Guatemala City, Guatemala95.463,036,405
Yekaterinburg, Russia94.291,521,136
Hanoi, Vietnam93.755,067,352
Mumbai, India89.3920,961,472
Bogota, Colombia88.2711,344,312
Tirana, Albania88.09511,559
Mexico City, Mexico85.9422,085,140
Almaty, Kazakhstan84.531,958,135
Recife, Brazil83.224,220,458
Nairobi, Kenya81.755,118,844
Novosibirsk, Russia81.711,686,236
Cairo, Egypt81.621,750,020
Karachi, Pakistan79.9116,839,950
Bangkok, Thailand79.7410,899,698
Sao Paulo, Brazil78.5422,429,800
Kathmandu, Nepal78.081,521,057
Lima, Peru77.6711,044,607
Delhi, India77.2732,065,760
Shanghai, China76.6228,516,904
Jakarta, Indonesia74.1311,074,811
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil70.2813,634,274
Caracas, Venezuela69.322,956,813
Colombo, Sri Lanka66.85625,637
Beirut, Lebanon66.542,433,155
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam66.419,077,158
Beijing, China58.9621,333,332
Tehran, Iran56.289,381,546
Dhaka, Bangladesh56.1822,478,116
Lagos, Nigeria48.2215,387,639
Manila, Philippines46.0814,406,059

It’s worth noting that the negative correlation between the quality of life and population size only appeared in cities above the median population of 2.4 million people, indicating that the size of a city doesn’t appear to impact quality of life until a certain tipping point. Then, above the median, there’s a blatant downward trend.

However, Tokyo is an anomaly—its quality of life is much higher than it’s metropolitan population would predict.

Zooming in on Tokyo

Despite being the world’s largest urban area, Tokyo compares favorably compared to other top megacities across the index. When ranked among the top five megacities, it places in first for Purchasing Power, Safety, Traffic Commute Time, Cost of Living, Healthcare, and Pollution.

What’s so special about Tokyo? One major thing going for the Japanese city is its immaculate public transport system. The city’s transport is so efficient, the city’s rail service once issued a public apology after a train left the station 25 seconds earlier than its scheduled departure.

Another factor that makes Tokyo so livable is its relatively affordable housing, at least compared to other big cities like New York and Hong Kong. This is partly because of the city’s flexible land zoning system, which makes it relatively easy for developers to build housing and mix-use communities.

As our world becomes increasingly more urbanized, and cities around the world continue to increase in size, will they be able to emulate Tokyo’s growth? And if not, what other city design trends and innovations can cities utilize to raise quality of live?

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Misc

Ranked: The World’s Most Surveilled Cities

The world’s most surveilled cities contain hundreds of thousands of cameras. View this infographic to see the data in perspective.

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Ranked: The World’s Most Surveilled Cities

This may come as a surprise, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the global urban population overtook the rural population. At that time, the two groups were split nearly 50/50, with around 3.3 billion people apiece.

Today, the percentage of people living in urban areas has grown to over 55%, and is expected to reach 68% by 2050. Due to this trend, many of the world’s largest cities have become home to tens of millions of people.

In response to such incredible density, governments, businesses, and households have installed countless security cameras for various purposes including crime protection. To grasp the scale of this surveillance, we’ve taken data from a recent report by Comparitech to visualize the most surveilled cities in the world.

The List (Excluding China)

Excluding China for the time being, these are the world’s 10 most surveilled cities.

CityPopulationNumber of CamerasCameras per
1,000 people
🇮🇳 Indore, India3.2M200,60063
🇮🇳 Hyderabad, India10.5M440,29942
🇮🇳 Delhi, India16.3M436,60027
🇮🇳 Chennai, India11.5M282,12625
🇸🇬 Singapore6.0M108,98118
🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia12.6M213,00017
🇮🇶 Baghdad, Iraq7.5M120,00016
🇬🇧 London, UK9.5M127,37313
🇷🇺 St. Petersburg, Russia5.5M70,00013
🇺🇸 Los Angeles, U.S.3.9M34,9599

Figures rounded

The top four cities all belong to India, which is the world’s second largest country by population. Surveillance cameras are playing a major role in the country’s efforts to reduce crimes against women.

Further down the list are cities from a variety of countries. One of these is Russia, which has expanded its use of surveillance cameras in recent years. Given the country’s track record of human rights violations, activists are worried that facial recognition technology could become a tool of oppression.

The only U.S. city on the list is Los Angeles, which contains some of the country’s wealthiest neighborhoods and municipalities. That includes Beverly Hills, which according to the Los Angeles Times, has over 2,000 cameras for its population of 32,500. That translates to about 62 cameras per 1,000 people, meaning that Beverly Hills would finish at #2 in the global ranking if it were listed as a separate entity.

Surveillance in China

IHS Markit estimates that as of 2021, there are over 1 billion surveillance cameras installed worldwide. The firm also believes that 54% of these cameras are located in China.

Because of limited transparency, it’s impossible to pinpoint how many cameras are actually in each Chinese city. However, if we assume that China has 540 million cameras and divide that amongst its population of 1.46 billion, we can reasonably say that there are 373 cameras per 1,000 people (figures rounded).

Cameras in China

A limitation of this approach is that it assumes everyone in China lives in a city, which is far from reality. The most recent World Bank figures suggest that 37% of China’s population is rural, which equates to over 500 million people.

With this in mind, the number of cameras per 1,000 people in a Tier 1+ Chinese city (e.g. Shanghai) is likely far greater than 373.

More About China

China’s expansive use of cameras and facial recognition technology has been widely documented in the media. These networks enable the country’s social credit program, which gives local governments an unprecedented amount of oversight over its citizens.

For example, China’s camera networks can be used to verify ATM withdrawals, permit access into homes, and even publicly shame people for minor offences like jaywalking.

This might sound like a dystopian nightmare to Western audiences, but according to Chinese citizens, it’s mostly a good thing. In a 2018 survey of 2,209 citizens, 80% of respondents approved of social credit systems.

If you’re interested in learning more about surveillance in Chinese cities, consider this video from The Economist, which explores the opportunities and dangers of comprehensive state control.

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