New Census figures: population 80.7% urban, most dense cities in the West

The US Census Bureau released Monday some figures about cities in America. Here are the updated 2010 statistics about urbanization:

 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…
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.

Translation: the proportion of Americans living in urban areas didn’t change very much over the last 10 years. In comparison, the urban population jumped 6% from 1970 to 1980, 3% from 1980 to 1990, and 3% from 1990 to 2000 (see figures on pg. 33 of this Census document). Does this mean we are nearing a plateau in terms of the proportion of Americans living in urban areas?

And here are the new figures for the densest metropolitan areas:

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…
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.

These new figures continue to support one of the trick questions about cities: which city is the most dense? A common answer is New York City because of Manhattan but the densest is actually Los Angeles. Of course, some of this has to do with Southern and Western cities having more space because of the drying up of annexation opportunities in Midwestern and Northeastern cities in the early 1900s.

While these are very interesting figures, where is the percentage of Americans who live in suburbs?

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  1. [...] The suburbs provide a little of both worlds: close access to the gritty authenticity of big-city life but good schools and friendly neighbors. Notice I didn’t say “the best of both worlds” but rather access to some of the characteristics of rural and urban life. They may not be ideal places but a majority of Americans live in these communities. [...]

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