The 20 Biggest U.S. Cities Based on Population

Illustrated bar chart of the biggest U.S. cities by population

ThoughtCo / Jaime Knoth

The largest cities in the United States (at least the top few) don't tend to shift around in the ranks, but they definitely do grow. Ten U.S. cities have a population of more than a million. California and Texas each have three of the most populous cities. 

Notice that more than half of large cities are located in what could be broadly be defined as the "Sunbelt," the southwestern, sun-warmed region that is one of the most rapidly growing parts of the U.S., as people arrive from colder, northern states. The South has 10 of the 15 cities that are growing most quickly, and five of those are in Texas.

This list of the 20 largest cities in the United States is based on the population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau as of July 2016.

of 20

New York, New York: Population 8,537,673

Empire State building and skyline, New York, USA
Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

The U.S. Census Bureau showed a gain for New York City of 362,500 residents (4.4 percent) as compared with the 2010 figures, and each of the city's boroughs gained people. A longer lifespan balanced out people moving out of the city.

of 20

Los Angeles, California: Population 3,976,322

Los Angeles skyline
Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Getty Images

The median home price (owner occupied) in Los Angeles is nearly $600,000, the median age of the people there is 35.6, and 60 percent of all the nearly 1.5 million households speak a language other than (or in addition to) English. 

of 20

Chicago, Illinois: Population 2,704,958

Aerial cityscape of Chicago and Lake Michigan
Allan Baxter / Getty Images

Overall, Chicago's population is declining, but the city is becoming more racially diverse. Populations of people of Asian and Hispanic origin are growing, while the numbers of Caucasians and Blacks are decreasing.

of 20

Houston, Texas: Population 2,303,482

USA, Texas, Houston, Skyline and Eleanor Tinsley Park
Westend61 / Getty Images

Houston was eighth in the top 10 fastest growing cities between 2015 and 2016, adding 18,666 people that year. About two-thirds are 18 years old and above, and only about 10 percent 65 and over. A similar ratio to the cities that are bigger than Houston.

of 20

Phoenix, Arizona: 1,615,017

Phoenix, Business district
Brian Stablyk / Getty Images

Phoenix took over Philadelphia's spot on the country's list of most populous in 2017. Phoenix almost accomplished this back in 2007, but those estimated gains disappeared after 2010's full count.

of 20

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Population 1,567,872

Philadelphia skyline with Schuylkill River
Jon Lovette / Getty Images

Philadelphia is growing but just barely. The Philadelphia Inquirer noted in 2017 that people move to Philly (an increase in population of 2,908 between 2015 and 2016) but then move out when their children turn school age; Philly's suburbs are barely just growing, too.

of 20

San Antonio, Texas: Population 1,492,510

San Antonio, Texas
Anne Rippy / Getty Images

One of the biggest growers in the U.S., San Antonio added 24,473 new folks between 2015 and 2016.

of 20

San Diego, California: Population 1,406,630

San Diego Harbor on clear day
David Toussaint / Getty Images

San Diego rounded out the top 10 list of the fastest growing between 2015 and 2016 by adding 15,715 new residents.

of 20

Dallas, Texas: Population 1,317,929

USA, Texas, Dallas, City skyline on sunny day
Gavin Hellier / Getty Images

Three of the fastest growing cities in the nation are in Texas. Dallas is one of these; it added 20,602 people between 2015 and 2016. 

of 20

San Jose, California: Population 1,025,350

Downtown - San Jose California
Derek_Neumann / Getty Images

San Jose's city government estimates that it grew just under 1 percent between 2016 and 2017, enough to maintain its status as the third largest city in California.

of 20

Austin, Texas: Population 947,890

Texas skyline during golden hour
Peter Tsai Photography - / Getty Images

Austin is a "no majority" city, meaning that no one ethnic or demographic group claims a majority of the city's population.

of 20

Jacksonville, Florida: Population 880,619

USA, Florida, Jacksonville, City skyline at dusk
Henryk Sadura / Getty Images

Besides being the 12th largest city in the nation, Jacksonville, Florida, was also the 12th fastest growing between 2015 and 2016.

of 20

San Francisco, Califorina: Population 870,887

USA, California, San Francisco, Bay Bridge and city skyline
Jordan Banks / Getty Images

The median price for a home in San Francisco, California, was $1.5 million dollars in the fourth quarter of 2017. Even a condo's median was more than $1.1 million.

of 20

Columbus, Ohio: Population 860,090

Downtown Columbus, Ohio
TraceRouda / Getty Images

Growing about 1 percent between 2015 and 2016 was all that was needed to overtake Indianapolis to become the No. 14 most populous city.

of 20

Indianapolis, Indiana: Population 855,164

USA, Indiana, Indianapolis, Skyline against clear sky
Henryk Sadura / Getty Images

More than half of Indiana's counties saw a reduction in population between 2015 and 2016, but Indianapolis (up almost 3,000) and surrounding suburbs saw modest increases.

of 20

Fort Worth, Texas: Population 854,113

Fort Worth skyline and bridge
Davel5957 / Getty Images

Fort Worth added almost 20,000 people between 2015 and 2016, making it one of the top growers in the nation, right between Dallas at No. 6 and Houston at No. 8.

of 20

Charlotte, North Carolina: Population 842,051

Marshall Park and city skyline.
Richard Cummins / Getty Images

Charlotte, North Carolina, has not stopped growing since 2010 but also reflects the nationwide trend since 2000 of a shrinking middle class, as reported in the 2017 Mecklenburg County Community Pulse report. The trend hits especially hard where there's manufacturing loss.

of 20

Seattle, Washington: Population 704,352

Famous view of Seattle skyline with the Space Needle and Mt Rainier
@ Didier Marti / Getty Images

In 2016, Seattle was the 10th most expensive major city in the country to be a renter.

of 20

Denver, Colorado: Population 693,060

Autumn Sunset Over the Downtown Denver Skyline
Photography by Bridget Calip / Getty Images

A report by Downtown Denver Partnership found in 2017 that the center of the city was growing quickly and had 79,367 residents, or just over 10 percent of the city's population, more than triple the number living there in 2000.

of 20

El Paso, Texas: Population 683,080

Downtown El Paso
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

El Paso, on the far western tip of Texas, is the largest metropolitan area on the Mexican border.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Rosenberg, Matt. "The 20 Biggest U.S. Cities Based on Population." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, Rosenberg, Matt. (2020, August 29). The 20 Biggest U.S. Cities Based on Population. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Matt. "The 20 Biggest U.S. Cities Based on Population." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).