Development of the 4 Most Dense
Urbanized Areas in the USA: 1950-2000

Los Angeles has extended its lead as the nationís most dense urban area, at 7,068 per square mile in 2000. Further, the new data indicates that Los Angeles is the most dense urban area north of the Mexican border, with Toronto having fallen to second place, at 6,835 (Statistics Canada and the US Census Bureau use similar criteria for urban/urbanized areas).


Historically Comparable Urban Areas (HCUA) Analysis: Adjusting for urbanized area definitional changes to make the 2000 data more comparable with 1990 and before, the Historically Comparable Urban Area (HCUA) of Los Angeles is now 27 percent more dense than New York, up from seven percent in 1990 and minus seven percent in 1980.


The New York HCUA has declined 46 percent from its 1950 density, though has dropped less than five percent in the last 20 years. Nonetheless, at nearly 3,353 square miles, New York is by far the worldís most sprawling urban area (Chicago, at 2,123 square miles appears to be second). The New York HCUA is now 5,309 persons per square mile.


The San Francisco HCUA has fallen 25 percent since 1950, when it was slightly more dense than Los Angeles in 2000. However, San Francisco fell 43 percent from 1950 to 1980, but has since recovered approximately 40 percent of that loss. The San Francisco HCUA is now 5,298 persons per square mile and ranks as the nationís fourth most dense urbanized area.


The San Jose HCUA, which it could be argued should be a part of the San Francisco urbanized area, has grown very rapidly and is now nearly 90 percent more dense than in 1950. San Jose is unique in not having a strongurban core and being virtually all suburban (automobile oriented) in design, owing to the fact that almost all of its development occurred after World War II. The San Jose HCUA has a density of 5,439 persons per square mile and ranks as the nationís second most dense urbanized area.


Population per Square Mile    
Year Los Angeles New York San Francisco San Jose
1950 4,589 9,813 7,045 2,885
1960 4,736 7,460 4,250 2,704
1970 5,312 6,683 4,388 3,700
1980 5,188 5,552 4,009 3,816
1990 5,800 5,407 4,153 4,246
2000 6,720 5,309 5,298 5,439
2000 area adjusted to improve comparability to 1990 definition.
Change from 1950      
Year Los Angeles New York San Francisco San Jose
1950 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
1960 3.2% -24.0% -39.7% -6.3%
1970 15.8% -31.9% -37.7% 28.3%
1980 13.1% -43.4% -43.1% 32.3%
1990 26.4% -44.9% -41.0% 47.1%
2000 46.4% -45.9% -24.8% 88.5%
Compiled by Demographia from US Census Bureau data.

Demographia is Affiliated with The Public Purpose, A Top National Journal Internet Site
Demographia is "pro-choice" with respect to urban development.
People should have the freedom to live and work where and how they like.

are undertakings of
P. O. Box 841 - Belleville, IL 62222 USA
Telephone: +1.618.632.8507 - Facsimile: +1.775.521.8564
Send E-Mail

(c) 2001 --- Wendell Cox Consultancy --- Permission granted to use with attribution.