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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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Cities

The 8 Ways Urban Demographics are Changing

These pivotal trends show how urban demographics are aiding in the transition to a very different economic and investment landscape.

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The 8 Ways Urban Demographics are Changing

Cities are what keep the global economic machine humming.

Over 80% of the world’s economic output is derived from activities in cities – and more specifically, it’s estimated that 60% of GDP growth occurs in just the top 600 urban centers.

Given the above, it’s fair to say that the destiny of humankind is directly linked to what happens in major cities. Further, how urbanization plays out over time could end up having a significant ripple effect on the economy, and we should pay close attention to such trends.

Urbanization 2.0

Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it showcases eight different ways that urban demographics are evolving.

Below we will summarize the changes, along with potential impacts on the economy:

1. A Higher Percentage of Urban Dwellers

Between 1950 and 2018, we went from 30% to 55% of the world’s population living in cities. This has been driven largely by today’s middle and high income economies in places like North America, South America, Europe, and Japan.

The next stage of urbanization will see us move to 68% – more than two-thirds of the world’s population – living in these urban conglomerations. It will be driven by countries in developing markets, creating a potent investing megatrend along the way.

2. The Countries Driving Growth

It’s estimated that three countries will combine for 35% of all urban population growth.

RankCountryGrowth in Urban Population (2018-2050)% of Global Urban Growth
World860 million people35%
#1India416 million people17%
#2China255 million people10%
#3Nigeria189 million people8%

In total, there will be 2.5 billion more urban dwellers in 2050 than there are today. Many of these people will experience rising incomes in cities, increasing the global middle class to an unprecedented size.

3. Peaking Rural Populations

On the flipside, it appears the world’s rural population has nearly flatlined, with anticipation that it will peak in absolute terms in the next couple of years. Rural populations have been slowly growing since 1950 until this point.

4. The Rise of Megacities

There will be 43 megacities by the year 2050, which is more than quadruple the amount that existed back in 1950.

The changing geography of the world’s megacities will be one of the major forces that shapes the future of the global economy and accompanying investment trends.

5. New Population Centers

By 2050, more than 70% of the world’s urban population will live in Asia or Africa. Meanwhile, North America and Europe will combine for closer to 15% of that total.

6. De-Urbanization

The role of de-urbanization is often downplayed or forgot about when discussing urban demographics, but it is an interesting issue.

Factors such as falling fertility rates, economic contraction, and natural disasters are actually shrinking the size of some cities. In fact, McKinsey predicts that 17% of cities in developed regions will see a drop in population between 2015-2025.

7. Disparities in Urban Growth

The rate for urban population growth is actually trending down across all types of economies – however, these rates come from very different starting points.

High income countries are currently averaging growth of less than 1% per year, and this will continue to decline to below 0.5% per year by 2050. Over the same time period, low income nations will go from 4% to 3% per year.

8. Changes in Average Age

The age distributions in large cities within developed nations will begin to skew older, something we’ve shown previously when looking at the median age of every continent.

The biggest impact here may be felt on dependency ratios in the workforce. With a smaller pipeline of new workforce entrants and a burgeoning population of seniors, this changing ratio is one of the most significant stories impacting urban demographics.

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The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

Cities are drivers of growth and prosperity, but also the main contributors of pollution. Can hydrogen fuel the growth of cities with clean power?

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In the modern context, cities create somewhat of a paradox.

While cities are the main drivers for improving the lives of people and entire nations, they also tend to be the main contributors of pollution and CO2 emissions.

How can we encourage this growth, while also making city energy use sustainable?

Resolving the Paradox

Today’s infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and it outlines hydrogen technology as a sustainable fuel for keeping urban economic engines running effectively for the future.

The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

The Urban Economic Engine

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and according to U.N. estimates, that number will grow to 6.7 billion by 2050 – or about 68% of the global population.

Simultaneously, it is projected that developing economies such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa will drive global growth.

Development leads to urbanization which leads to increased economic activity:

The difficulty in this will be achieving a balance between growth and sustainability.

Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions to produce 80% of global GDP.

Further, it’s projected by the McKinsey Global Institute that the economic output of the 600 largest cities and urban regions globally could grow $30 trillion by the year 2050, comprising for two-thirds of all economic growth.

With this growth will come increased demand for energy and C02 emissions.

The Hydrogen Fueled City

Hydrogen, along with fuel cell technology, may provide a flexible energy solution that could replace the many ways fossils fuels are used today for heat, power, and transportation.

When used, it creates water vapor and oxygen, instead of harmful smog in congested urban areas.

According to the Hydrogen Council, by 2050, hydrogen could each year generate:

  • 1,500 TWh of electricity
  • 10% of the heat and power required by households
  • Power for a fleet of 400 million cars

The infrastructure requirements for hydrogen make it easy to distribute at scale. Meanwhile, for heat and power, low concentrations of hydrogen can be blended into natural gas networks with ease.

Hydrogen can play a role in improving the resilience of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, by being an energy carrier. By taking surplus electricity to generate hydrogen through electrolysis, energy can be stored for later use.

In short, hydrogen has the potential to provide the clean energy needed to keep cities running and growing while working towards zero emissions.

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