Which US Cities Are the Largest?

Joe Roberts
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on May 25, 2021
4 min read

The United States’ population growth has been slowing for the better part of a decade,1 and in 2020, growth in the US plummeted due to the Coronavirus pandemic.2 Despite this trend, the United States is still a big place with some very densely populated cities.

Which cities are the largest, though? We looked at Census Bureau data to find out which US cities have the most residents. Predictably, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago took the top three spots, though you may be surprised to see where your city ranks.

As a bonus, we also checked median rent in each city to give you an idea of how much it would cost to live there if you’re thinking about moving.

Whether you’re looking for a new city to call home or you’re just curious to learn how populated your current home is, keep reading to learn about the US’s most populous cities.

Largest cities by population

Key findings

  • With 8,336,817 residents, New York City is the largest city in the United States. There are 27,000 people per square mile in New York City, and the city’s population is larger than the combined populations of the two next most populous cities.
  • There are 3 California cities and 3 Texas cities in the top 10.
  • The average median rent for the top 10 largest cities is $1,364. The average for the 100 most populous cities is $1,213.
Money
Which cities have the lowest cost of living?

For this article we looked at median rent, but if you’re interested in other living costs you can read all about them in our Cost of Living report.


The 10 most populous US cities

1. New York City, New York

  • Population: 8,336,817
  • Median rent: $1,483

It isn't called the Big Apple for nothing. With a bustling population of over eight million, New York is the largest city in the United States. In fact, it has held this title for over 200 years.3 Even if you’ve never been to New York, you’re likely familiar with the city’s crowded streets and busy subways from seeing them in dozens of films, newscasts, and television shows.

2. Los Angeles, California

  • Population: 3,979,537
  • Median rent: $1,554

Los Angeles—a city on the opposite side of the country from New York—is right next to NYC in the population rankings. That said, LA only has about half as many residents as NYC, though its median rent is almost $100 higher.

3. Chicago, Illinois

  • Population: 2,693,959
  • Median rent: $1,134

With a population that doesn’t quite break three million, Chicago is much smaller than both New York and LA. The good news is that Chicago’s median rent is around $400 cheaper than either of the larger cities’ median rents.

4. Houston, Texas

  • Population: 2,316,797
  • Median rent: $1,095

Contrary to popular belief, not everything is bigger in Texas. While Houston’s population of 2,316,797 is immense, it’s only the fourth-largest city in the nation. That said, Houston is one of three Texas cities to make our top ten list, so Texas is tied with California for the most entries in the top ten.

5. Phoenix, Arizona

  • Population: 1,680,988
  • Median rent: $1,107

Though Phoenix ranks fifth in population size, it’s among the fastest-growing cities in the nation,4 so don’t be surprised to see it climbing the ranks in the coming decade.

6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Population: 1,584,064
  • Median rent: $1,079

Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania, but it’s still only the sixth-largest city in the nation. It probably isn’t going to be moving up the rankings anytime soon, either. Philly has seen a small population boom since 2010, but it seems to have ended,5 more or less cementing Philly’s population size for now.

7. San Antonio, Texas

  • Population: 1,547,250
  • Median rent: $1,029

San Antonio is the second Texas city to rank in our top ten, and it’s also a quickly growing city, so it might overtake Philly soon. San Antonio also has the lowest median rent of the US’s 10 most populous cities.

8. San Diego, California

  • Population: 1,423,852
  • Median rent: $1,806

Like Philadelphia, San Diego’s growth rate has seen a sharp decline in recent years.6 This makes San Diego’s placement on this list a little tenuous, especially considering how close to the bottom it currently is. In a few years, San Diego may no longer rank in the ten most populous US cities.

9. Dallas, Texas

  • Population: 1,343,565
  • Median rent: $1,128

The Dallas metro area is projected to grow faster than any other metro in the US.7 This isn’t particularly surprising since Texas is one of the fastest-growing states in the country.8 Three Texas cities landed in our top ten list this year, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Texas making an even stronger showing soon.

10. San Jose, California

  • Population: 1,021,786
  • Median rent: $2,223

San Jose may rank tenth in population size, but its median rent is higher than any other city in our top ten. In fact, of the 100 most populous cities in the US, only Irvine, California has a higher median rent than San Jose.


Methodology

We based our rankings exclusively on population size, and we used US Census Bureau sources to gather all data around population sizes9 and median rent costs10 in the 100 most populous US cities.


Sources

  1. United States Census Bureau, “New Estimates Show U.S. Population Growth Continues to Slow,” December 30, 2019. Accessed May 10, 2021.
  2. The Washington Post, “Natural Population Growth was Slowing. The Pandemic Pressed the Brakes,” May 5, 2021. Accessed May 10, 2021.
  3. Britannica, “Growth of the Metropolis.” Accessed May 10, 2021.
  4. My Home, “Population Growth: Where Are People Moving?” February 1, 2021. Accessed May 10, 2021.
  5. The Philadelphia Citizen, “The End of the Boom?” April 9, 2020. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  6. San Diego News Desk, “San Diego County Population Growth has all but Stopped.” January 23, 2020. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  7. CultureMap Dallas, “Dallas-Fort Worth Could See Biggest Population Surge in U.S. Through 2029.” Jan 9, 2020. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  8. Zippia, “The Fastest Growing States in the US.” February 2, 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  9. United States Census Bureau, “Total Population.” Accessed May 10, 2021.
  10. United States Census Bureau, “Selected Housing Characteristics.” Accessed May 10, 2021.

The largest cities in the US

Rank
City
State
Population
Median rent
1New YorkNew York8,336,817$1,483
2Los AngelesCalifornia3,979,537$1,554
3ChicagoIllinois2,693,959$1,134
4HoustonTexas2,316,797$1,095
5PhoenixArizona1,680,988$1,107
6PhiladelphiaPennsylvania1,584,064$1,079
7San AntonioTexas1,547,250$1,029
8San DiegoCalifornia1,423,852$1,806
9DallasTexas1,343,565$1,128
10San JoseCalifornia1,021,786$2,223
11AustinTexas979,263$1,334
12Fort WorthTexas913,656$1,110
13JacksonvilleFlorida911,528$1,099
14ColumbusOhio902,073$984
15CharlotteNorth Carolina885,707$1,174
16San FranciscoCalifornia881,549$1,959
17IndianapolisIndiana870,340$908
18SeattleWashington753,655$1,744
19DenverColorado727,211$1,433
20WashingtonDistrict of Columbia705,749$1,603
21BostonMassachusetts694,295$1,735
22El PasoTexas681,729$847
23DetroitMichigan670,052$866
24Nashville-Davidson metropolitan governmentTennessee668,580$1,191
25Oklahoma CityOklahoma655,158$874
26PortlandOregon653,467$1,312
27Las VegasNevada651,297$1,141
28MemphisTennessee651,088$923
29Louisville/Jefferson County metro governmentKentucky617,630$878
30BaltimoreMaryland593,490$1,090
31MilwaukeeWisconsin590,157$865
32AlbuquerqueNew Mexico560,504$905
33TucsonArizona548,082$846
34FresnoCalifornia531,581$1,058
35MesaArizona517,981$1,128
36SacramentoCalifornia513,620$1,370
37AtlantaGeorgia506,804$1,257
38Kansas CityMissouri495,278$979
39Colorado SpringsColorado478,215$1,212
40OmahaNebraska478,203$940
41RaleighNorth Carolina474,708$1,163
42MiamiFlorida467,968$1,298
43Long BeachCalifornia462,645$1,460
44Virginia BeachVirginia449,974$1,363
45OaklandCalifornia433,044$1,600
46MinneapolisMinnesota429,605$1,068
47TulsaOklahoma401,760$827
48TampaFlorida399,690$1,202
49ArlingtonTexas398,860$1,124
50New OrleansLouisiana390,144$1,010
51WichitaKansas389,914$833
52BakersfieldCalifornia384,159$1,105
53ClevelandOhio380,989$725
54AuroraColorado379,312$1,420
55AnaheimCalifornia350,351$1,733
56Urban Honolulu CDPHawaii345,055$1,506
57Santa AnaCalifornia332,332$1,632
58RiversideCalifornia331,369$1,504
59Corpus ChristiTexas326,590$1,037
60Lexington-Fayette urban countyKentucky323,152$932
61HendersonNevada320,190$1,388
62StocktonCalifornia312,682$1,184
63San Juan zona urbanaPuerto Rico310,323$523
64St. PaulMinnesota308,096$1,001
65CincinnatiOhio303,954$775
66St. LouisMissouri300,576$828
67PittsburghPennsylvania300,281$1,014
68GreensboroNorth Carolina296,725$921
69LincolnNebraska289,096$857
70Anchorage municipalityAlaska288,000$1,230
71OrlandoFlorida287,435$1,307
72IrvineCalifornia287,387$2,480
73PlanoTexas285,849$1,453
74NewarkNew Jersey281,999$1,129
75DurhamNorth Carolina279,447$1,127
76Chula VistaCalifornia274,485$1,715
77ToledoOhio272,778$744
78St. PetersburgFlorida265,358$1,178
79LaredoTexas264,069$860
80Fort WayneIndiana262,907$764
81Jersey CityNew Jersey262,075$1,541
82ChandlerArizona261,149$1,374
83MadisonWisconsin259,673$1,155
84LubbockTexas258,870$976
85ScottsdaleArizona258,064$1,471
86RenoNevada255,624$1,149
87BuffaloNew York255,300$807
88Gilbert townArizona254,115$1,603
89GlendaleArizona252,384$1,057
90North Las VegasNevada251,984$1,276
91Winston-SalemNorth Carolina247,951$840
92ChesapeakeVirginia244,835$1,225
93NorfolkVirginia242,742$1,021
94FremontCalifornia241,117$2,569
95IrvingTexas239,779$1,225
96GarlandTexas239,539$1,200
97Paradise CDPNevada237,899$1,026
98Arlington CDPVirginia236,842$1,993
99HialeahFlorida233,362$1,263
100RichmondVirginia230,436$1,078
Joe Roberts
Written by
Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over four years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at Overstock.com, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.