Biggest Cities in the U.S. (And the Biggest in Each State)

By: Karina Buggy  | 
It's not called the Big Apple for nothing, but New York City doesn't even crack the top 10 largest U.S. cities by land area. Copyright Artem Vorobiev / Getty Images

The United States Census Bureau tracks the population of all incorporated places in the United States. Incorporated places include cities, towns, villages, boroughs and municipalities. The government census can identify trends in the growth rate of populations and help communities plan for the future, which is especially important in the biggest cities in U.S. states.

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10 Biggest Cities in U.S. by Population

As far as population goes, New York City takes the cake by a long shot. With over 8 million residents, NYC has over double the population of the next most populated city in the U.S.: Los Angeles. The Big Apple also has the highest population density, where city residents and tourists alike vie for space.

Largest U.S. cities by population:

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  1. New York, New York (8,258,035)
  2. Los Angeles, California (3,820,914)
  3. Chicago, Illinois (2,664,452)
  4. Houston, Texas (2,314,157)
  5. Phoenix, Arizona (1,650,070)
  6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1,550,542)
  7. San Antonio, Texas (1,495,295)
  8. San Diego, California (1,388,320)
  9. Dallas, Texas (1,302,868)
  10. Jacksonville, Florida (985,843)

While the city of Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the U.S. in terms of population, Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the U.S. with 9.86 million people.

Population Density in the U.S.

Population density is the number of people per unit of a geographical area, typically measured per square mile in the United States. According to World Population Review, the country as a whole has a population density of 93.29 people per square mile. However, population density varies widely from state to state, from less than two people per square mile to nearly 12,000.

High population density is typically associated with metropolitan areas which have historically been centers for driving economic and social development. However, population density can quickly turn into overpopulation, which puts stress on governmental and natural resources, increases pollution, causes traffic and can lead to rising housing costs or housing shortages.

Areas with low population density may offer wide-open spaces and more accessible housing prices but typically have less infrastructure and economic development, for better or worse.

Places in the U.S. With Low Population Density

The state of Alaska has — by far — the lowest population density in the United States, with only 1.3 people per square mile.

Following that, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota all have low population densities with less than 12 people per square mile. Wyoming is also the smallest state in the U.S.A. in terms of total population size, with a mere 584,057 residents across its high plains.

Places in the U.S. With High Population Density

Shifting from states to cities, New York City has the highest population density in the United States, with over 29,000 people per square mile. Following New York City, San Francisco has the country's second-highest population crowding per capita with nearly 19,000 people per square mile.

Boston, Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia follow behind with the greatest amounts of population compared to land area.

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10 Largest Cities in U.S. by Land Area

City size is commonly measured by population. However, given the vast geographic size of the United States and the variety of urban and rural areas, land area is another factor to consider.

Four of the largest cities in the United States are in the southern half of Alaska, and Anchorage (in the No. 4 spot) is still over double the size of the next largest city outside the state. All in all, Alaska is the biggest state in the U.S.A. by land area, spanning 665,384 square miles.

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Largest U.S. cities by land area:

  1. Sitka, AK (2,870.3 mi²)
  2. Juneau, AK (2,701.9 mi²)
  3. Wrangell, AK (2,542.5 mi²)
  4. Anchorage, AK (1,704.7 mi²)
  5. Jacksonville, FL (747 mi²)
  6. Anaconda, MT (735.6 mi²)
  7. Butte, MT (716.2 mi²)
  8. Oklahoma City, OK (607 mi²)
  9. Houston, TX (599.6 mi²)
  10. Phoenix, AZ (516.7 mi²)

Notably, Jacksonville, Houston and Phoenix are some of the largest U.S. cities by land area as well as by population.

All other cities in the United States are under 500 mi².

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Most Populous City in Each U.S. State

Do all these numbers have you wondering about your home state's most populous city? Read on to find out!

  • Alabama: Huntsville (215,006)
  • Alaska: Anchorage (291,538)
  • Arizona: Phoenix (1,650,070)
  • Arkansas: Little Rock (202,591)
  • California: Los Angeles (3,820,914)
  • Colorado: Denver (719,239)
  • Connecticut: Bridgeport (148,654)
  • Delaware: Wilmington (70,635)
  • Florida: Jacksonville (985,843)
  • Georgia: Atlanta (498,715)
  • Hawaii: Honolulu (347,397)
  • Idaho: Boise (228,790)
  • Illinois: Chicago (2,664,452)
  • Indiana: Indianapolis (867,125)
  • Iowa: Des Moines (216,853)
  • Kansas: Wichita (389,225)
  • Kentucky: Louisville (620,578)
  • Louisiana: New Orleans (399,187)
  • Maine: Portland (66,417)
  • Maryland: Baltimore (594,282)
  • Massachusetts: Boston (699, 927)
  • Michigan: Detroit (672,662)
  • Minnesota: Minneapolis (427,728)
  • Mississippi: Jackson (164,422)
  • Missouri: Kansa City (508,090)
  • Montana: Billings (116,827)
  • Nebraska: Omaha (468,262)
  • Nevada: Las Vegas (649,976)
  • New Hampshire: Manchester (112,525)
  • New Jersey: Newark (282,090)
  • New Mexico: Albuquerque (560,218)
  • New York: New York (8,258,035)
  • North Carolina: Charlotte (882,367)
  • North Dakota: Fargo (124,844)
  • Ohio: Columbus (895,477)
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma City (649,021)
  • Oregon: Portland (661,189)
  • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia (1,550,542)
  • Rhode Island: Providence (179,335)
  • South Carolina: Charleston (150,277)
  • South Dakota: Sioux Falls (181,883)
  • Tennesse: Nashville (681,928)
  • Texas: Houston (2,314,157)
  • Utah: Salt Lake City (200,591)
  • Vermont: Burlington (44,743)
  • Virginia: Virginia Beach (450,189)
  • Washington: Seattle (754,567)
  • West Virginia: Charleston (47,215)
  • Wisconsin: Milwaukee (592,025)
  • Wyoming: Cheyenne (63,957)

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Population Growth Rate in the U.S.

Analyzing population growth rates in cities and states plays an important role in planning for future infrastructure such as public transportation, utilities, healthcare and housing, as well as considering the allocation of natural resources.

According to the United States Census Bureau, most of the fastest-growing cities in the United States are in Texas, including cities like Fort Worth, El Paso, Austin and San Antonio.

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This migration of citizens leaving large cities like San Francisco and the District of Columbia for smaller U.S. cities in rural states — such as Baton Rouge, Jersey City, Kansas City and Boise City — reflects a larger trend of people searching for community and a quiet lifestyle as opposed to the chaos of big-city living.

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