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America: Land Of Small Towns



May 21, 2020


The 2020 Census currently underway will provide an official count of the U.S. population, but annual estimates offer an ongoing look at population trends between decennial counts.


Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest population estimates for cities and towns, and they reveal that most of the nation’s population live in incorporated places.


About 76% of the approximately 19,500 incorporated places had fewer than 5,000 people. Of those, almost 42% had fewer than 500 people.


Of the nation's 328.2 million people, an estimated 206.9 million (about 63%) lived in an incorporated place as of July 1, 2019. About 76% of the approximately 19,500 incorporated places had fewer than 5,000 people. Of those, almost 42% had fewer than 500 people.


On the other hand, only 4.0% (780) of all cities had a population of 50,000 or more in 2019, yet nearly 39% of the U.S. population (127.8 million) live in those cities.


Highlights of City and Town Population Estimates


Overall, between the last census on April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2019 estimates, large cities in the South – places with a population of 50,000 or more – grew at a faster pace than in any other U.S region.


Since 2010, the population in large southern cities increased by an average of 11.8%. The big cities in the West grew by an average of 9.1%. In contrast, large cities in the Northeast and Midwest had lower rates of growth of 1.5% and 3.1% respectively.


On average, small cities and towns, with populations of less than 5,000 people, have seen uneven growth across U.S. regions:


In the Northeast, small towns decreased by 3.0%.

In the Midwest, small towns decreased by 1.7%.

In the South, small towns grew by 6.7%.

In the West, small towns saw the largest growth with an increase of 13.3%.


Midsized cities in the Northeast – places with populations of at least 5,000 but less than 10,000 people – saw relative stability with a small average decline of 0.9% since the 2010 Census.


Midsized cities in the other regions experienced population growth, on average.

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