Census Bureau Shows America Becoming More Urban

In a sign that more Americans are living in urban areas, the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing that there are now 10 cities with estimated populations over a million. These estimates on demographic and population shifts are useful to investors and business owners. This article will cover the highlights of the Census Bureau data and how it can be helpful to the business community.

1 Million Milestone

1 Million Milestone

The U.S. is becoming more urban. The top 10 cities in the U.S. have a combined population of about 25.55 million people. The U.S. has a population of about 319 million, so that means that about one out of every 13 U.S. residents lives in one of these 10 cities.

New York

At 8.49 million people, New York City remains the most populous city in the nation. They even added about 52,700 people last year, which is more than any other city. New York’s position as number one won’t change for a very long time. Though other cities are growing at a faster rate, New York City’s nearest rival is Los Angeles, which has less than half of NYC’s population.

California

California may be suffering from its worst drought in decades, but this hasn’t hampered the growth in some of the state’s largest cities. California now has three cities with 1 million or more people (Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose), tying Texas (Houston, San Antonio and Dallas) for the lead among states.

California has four of the 15 cities with the largest numerical gains, adding Irvine to the three cities mentioned before. Irvine was also the only city in the U.S. to be among both the 15 largest numerical gainers and the 15 fastest growing. The Orange County municipality grew by an amazing 11,420 people, a 4.8 percent year-over-year increase. That may only be a fifth of the population growth seen by New York City in the same period, but with a population of 248,531, the OC is only one twentieth the size of NYC.

Texas

The other big winner in this report was Texas. Half of the 10 cities with the largest population gains between 2013 and 2014 were in Texas — Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth. Each added more than 18,000 people. The Lone Star State also had six of the top 13 fastest-growing cities by percentage — San Marcos, Georgetown, Frisco, Conroe, McKinney and New Braunfels.

For the third year in a row, San Marcos, Texas, which is situated between Austin and San Antonio, was the fastest-growing city in the country. Its population grew 7.9 percent between 2013 and 2014. However, this flurry of growth only raised the population to 58,892. But for a town that size, adding thousands of residents each year is pretty amazing.

The report on 2014 population estimates also noted an important milestone for New Orleans. For the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, New Orleans is once again among the 50 most-populous cities in America. New Orleans now has a population of about 385,000. Arlington, Texas is the city that fell out of the rankings. New Orleans’ pre-Katrina population was near 485,000, so there’s still a lot of room for growth and development.

Though there are a lot of people living in big cities, it’s important to remember that most cities in the U.S. are small. There are 19,509 incorporated places (i.e. cities, towns, etc.) in the United States and more than three quarters (75.9 percent) of them, 14,819 locations, had fewer than 5,000 people in 2014. Only about 3.8 percent (749) had populations of 50,000 or more. The top 25 cities in the U.S. only hold about 11 percent of the population. So while it’s true that a large number of people living in a handful of places, the vast majority of Americans live in smaller communities. Something that is easy to overlook given the disproportionate coverage larger cities receive from the media.

Applications for this Research

The business applications for this research all boil down to knowing where the people are. Real estate investors should be trying to procure properties in places with growing populations while reducing their exposure in markets where populations are declining. Businesses that are thinking of opening a new location can look at this data to see the cities near them that are growing at a good pace and their marketing teams can choose target markets based on this information.

It’s important to try and dig deep when considering things like population shifts. The answers can help business owners predict which areas will see similar growth in the future and get in earlier than most. For example, investors and business owners in Texas should ask why San Marco is growing so quickly. Is it because of the University, new job opportunities in San Marco or the big cities that surround it, or has the city enacted tax policies that encourage people to move their from nearby location?

Using these estimates from the Census are good way for business owners to see the trends that will shape their area and to predict the high-value markets of the future.

Donald Postway

About Donald Postway

Donald Postway is a freelance communications specialist and business analyst. He has a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in communications, both from the University of North Florida. He has worked in a variety of industries, including local government, information technology, marketing, retail and more.

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