March 26, 2012 - The nation's urban population increased by 12.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, outpacing the nation's overall growth rate of 9.7 percent for the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau released the new list of urban areas today based on 2010 Census results.
Urban areas — defined as densely developed residential, commercial and other nonresidential areas — now account for 80.7 percent of the U.S. population, up from 79.0 percent in 2000. Although the rural population — the population in any areas outside of those classified as "urban" — grew by a modest amount from 2000 to 2010, it continued to decline as a percentage of the national population.
The Census Bureau identifies two types of urban areas: "urbanized areas" of 50,000 or more people and "urban clusters" of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people. There are 486 urbanized areas and 3,087 urban clusters nationwide.
The nation's most densely populated urbanized area is Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif., with nearly 7,000 people per square mile. The San Francisco-Oakland, Calif., area is the second most densely populated at 6,266 people per square mile, followed by San Jose, Calif. (5,820 people per square mile) and Delano, Calif. (5,483 people per square mile). The New York-Newark, N.J., area is fifth, with an overall density of 5,319 people per square mile. (See sortable lists.)
Of the 10 most densely populated urbanized areas, nine are in the West, with seven of those in California. Urbanized areas in the U.S., taken together, had an overall population density of 2,534 people per square mile.
The New York-Newark area continues to be the nation's most populous urbanized area, with 18,351,295 residents. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim is the second most populous (12,150,996), followed by the Chicago area (8,608,208). These areas have been the three most populous since the 1950 Census, when urbanized areas were first defined; however, at that time, Chicago was the second largest. Los Angeles became the second most populous urbanized area in 1960, and the order of the top three has not changed since.
Among urbanized areas with populations of 1 million or more, the Charlotte, N.C.-S.C., area grew at the fastest rate, increasing by 64.6 percent, followed by the Austin, Texas, area, at 51.1 percent, and Las Vegas-Henderson, Nev., at 43.5 percent. The Charlotte and Austin areas also had the highest rates of land area change, increasing by 70.5 percent and 64.4 percent, respectively.
The population within the nation's 486 urbanized areas grew by 14.3 percent from 2000 to 2010. For any given urbanized area, population increase may be attributed to a combination of internal growth, outward expansion to include new growth, and outward expansion encompassing existing communities that previously were outside the urbanized area.
Based on 2010 Census results, the Census Bureau identified 36 new urbanized areas, including Cape Girardeau, Mo.-Ill. (52,900), Grand Island, Neb. (50,440), Lake Havasu City, Ariz. (53,427), Manhattan, Kan. (54,622), Mankato, Minn. (57,784), Midland, Mich. (59,014), and Sierra Vista, Ariz. (52,745). As a result of changes in criteria and delineation procedures, the Census Bureau identified the Williamsburg, Va., area (75,689) as a separate urbanized area; it previously was part of the larger Virginia Beach, Va.-N.C., urbanized area. As part of its review of urban and rural populations, the Census Bureau also identified 3,087 urban clusters of at least 2,500 and fewer than 50,000 people. Three former urbanized areas are now classified as urban clusters: Danville, Va.-N.C. (49,344), Galveston, Texas (44,022) and Sandusky, Ohio (48,990).
Regional and State Patterns
Of the nation's four census regions, the West continued to be the most urban, with 89.8 percent of its population residing within urban areas, followed by the Northeast, at 85.0 percent. The Midwest and South continue to have lower percentages of urban population than the nation as a whole, with rates of 75.9 and 75.8, respectively. (See tables with percentages.)
Of the nine census divisions, the Pacific division remains the most urban, with nearly 92 percent of its population residing within urban areas. The East South Central division (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee) remains the least urban, with only 59.9 percent of its population residing within urban areas.
Of the 50 states, California was the most urban, with nearly 95 percent of its population residing within urban areas. New Jersey followed closely with 94.7 percent of its population residing in urban areas. New Jersey is the most heavily urbanized state, with 92.2 percent of its population residing within urbanized areas of 50,000 or more population. The states with the largest urban populations were California (35,373,606), Texas (21,298,039) and Florida (17,139,844). Maine and Vermont were the most rural states, with 61.3 and 61.1 percent of their populations, respectively, residing in rural areas. States with the largest rural populations were Texas (3,847,522), North Carolina (3,233,727) and Pennsylvania (2,711,092).
The Census Bureau also defined the urban and rural areas in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's urban population declined from 3,590,994 people in 2000 to 3,493,256 in 2010, now accounting for 93.8 percent of the total population of 3,725,789 (down from 94.3 percent). The rural population in Puerto Rico increased between 2000 and 2010, both in number — from 217,616 to 232,533 — and as a percentage of the total population, from 5.6 percent to 6.2 percent. Of the 11 urbanized areas in Puerto Rico, San Juan remains the largest, with a population of 2,148,346. There are eight urban clusters in Puerto Rico for the 2010 Census.
Census Bureau's Urban and Rural Classification
The Census Bureau's urban areas represent densely developed territory and encompass residential, commercial, and other nonresidential urban land uses. The Census Bureau identifies two types of urban areas: "urbanized areas" of 50,000 or more people and "urban clusters" of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people. "Rural" encompasses all population, housing and territory not included within an urban area.
The Census Bureau's urban and rural classification provides an important baseline for analyzing changes in the distribution and characteristics of urban and rural populations. The Census Bureau's urban areas also form the cores of metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget, and are used in other agencies' and organization's urban and rural classifications.
More information about the Census Bureau's Urban-Rural Classification, including the criteria used to delineate urban areas, lists of urbanized areas and urban clusters, maps and files providing relationships with other geographic areas, can be found on the Census Bureau's website at http://www.census.gov/geo/www/ua/2010urbanruralclass.html.
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