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Urbanization has had a significant impact on population distribution in the United States. As cities have grown and become more attractive to people, they have become more densely populated. This has resulted in a shift in population away from rural areas and towards urban areas. According to the US Census Bureau, the population of the US has shifted from being primarily rural in the early 1900s to being more than 80% urban as of 2019. This shift has been largely driven by people moving from rural areas to cities in search of better jobs, education, and other opportunities. Urbanization has also resulted in the development of suburban areas and the growth of megacities, such as New York City and Los Angeles. As a result, population distribution in the US has become increasingly concentrated in urban areas.

Urbanization in the United States

Overview of urbanization in the United States of America

Urban and rural populations in the United States (1790 to 2010)

The urbanization of the United States has progressed throughout its entire history. Over the last two centuries, the United States of America has been transformed from a predominantly rural, agricultural nation into an urbanized, industrial one. This was largely due to the Industrial Revolution in the United States (and parts of Western Europe) in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and the rapid industrialization which the United States experienced as a result. In 1790, only about one out of every twenty Americans (on average) lived in urban areas (cities), but this ratio had dramatically changed to one out of four by 1870, one out of two by 1920, two out of three in the 1960s, and four out of five in the 2000s.

Urbanization

The urbanization of the United States occurred over a period of many years, with the nation only attaining urban-majority status between 1910 and 1920. Currently, over four-fifths of the U.S. population resides in urban areas, a percentage which is still increasing today. The United States Census Bureau changed its classification and definition of urban areas in 1950 and again in 1990, and caution is thus advised when comparing urban data from different time periods.

Urbanization was fastest in the Northeastern United States, which acquired an urban majority by 1880. Some Northeastern U.S. states had already acquired an urban majority before then, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island (majority-urban by 1850), and New York (majority-urban since about 1870). The Midwestern and Western United States became urban majority in the 1910s, while the Southern United States only became urban-majority after World War II, in the 1950s.

The Western U.S. is the most urbanized part of the country today, followed closely by the Northeastern United States. The Southern U.S. experienced rapid industrialization after World War II, and is now over three-quarters urban, having almost the same urban percentage in 2010 as the Midwestern United States. Just four U.S. states (out of fifty) have a rural majority today, and even some of these states (such as Mississippi) are continuing to urbanize. Some U.S. states currently have an urban percentage around or above 90%, an urbanization rate almost unheard of a century ago.

The state of Maine (and Vermont, to a lesser degree) has bucked the trend towards greater urbanization which is exhibited throughout the rest of the United States. Maine’s highest urban percentage ever was less than 52% (in 1950), and today less than 39% of the state’s population resides in urban areas. Maine is currently the least urban U.S. state; its urban percentage (39%) is less than half of the United States average (81%). Maine was less urban than the United States average in every U.S. census since the first one in 1790.

Historical statistics

The data in this table/section are all from the U.S. Census Bureau. Note that the definition[definition needed] of urban population has changed over time. New definitions were used for the Censuses conducted for 1900, 1950, and 2000.

The Urban Population as a Percentage of the Total Population by U.S. Region and State (1790-2010)
State/Territory 2010 2000 1990 1980 1970 1960 1950 1940 1930 1920 1910 1900 1890 1880 1870 1860 1850 1840 1830 1820 1810 1800 1790
United States United States 80.7% 79.0% 78.0% 73.7% 73.6% 69.9% 64.0% 56.5% 56.1% 51.2% 45.6% 39.6% 35.1% 28.2% 25.7% 19.8% 15.4% 10.8% 8.8% 7.2% 7.3% 6.1% 5.1%
Northeast 85.0% 84.4% 84.0% 79.2% 80.5% 80.2% 79.5% 76.6% 77.6% 75.5% 71.8% 66.1% 59.0% 50.8% 44.3% 35.7% 26.9% 18.5% 14.2% 11.0% 10.9% 9.3% 8.1%
Midwest 75.9% 74.7% 73.9% 70.5% 71.6% 68.7% 64.1% 58.4% 57.9% 52.3% 45.1% 38.6% 33.1% 24.2% 20.8% 13.9% 9.2% 3.9% 2.6% 1.1% 0.9% 0.0%
South 75.8% 72.8% 71.5% 66.9% 64.8% 58.5% 48.6% 36.7% 34.1% 28.1% 25.5% 18.3% 16.3% 12.2% 12.2% 9.6% 8.3% 6.7% 5.3% 4.6% 4.1% 3.0% 2.1%
West 89.8% 88.6% 87.6% 83.9% 83.0% 77.7% 69.5% 58.5% 58.4% 51.8% 47.9% 39.9% 37.0% 30.2% 25.8% 16.0% 6.4%
Alabama Alabama 59.0% 55.4% 56.8% 60.0% 58.6% 54.8% 43.8% 30.2% 28.1% 21.7% 17.3% 11.9% 10.1% 5.4% 6.3% 5.1% 4.6% 2.1% 1.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Alaska Alaska 66.0% 65.6% 61.0% 64.3% 56.9% 37.9% 26.6% 24.0% 13.2% 5.6% 9.5% 24.5% 0.0% 0.0%
Arizona Arizona 89.8% 88.2% 86.5% 83.8% 79.6% 74.5% 55.5% 34.8% 34.4% 36.1% 31.0% 15.9% 9.4% 17.3% 33.4% 0.0%
Arkansas Arkansas 56.2% 52.5% 52.0% 51.6% 50.0% 42.8% 33.0% 22.2% 20.6% 16.6% 12.9% 8.5% 6.5% 4.6% 2.6% 0.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
California California 95.0% 94.4% 93.7% 91.3% 90.9% 86.4% 80.7% 71.0% 73.3% 67.9% 61.8% 52.3% 48.6% 42.9% 37.2% 20.7% 7.4%
Colorado Colorado 86.2% 84.5% 83.8% 80.6% 78.5% 73.7% 62.7% 52.6% 50.2% 48.2% 50.3% 48.3% 45.0% 31.4% 11.9% 13.9%
Connecticut Connecticut 88.0% 87.7% 87.0% 78.8% 78.4% 78.3% 77.6% 67.8% 70.4% 67.8% 65.6% 59.9% 50.9% 41.9% 33.0% 26.5% 16.0% 12.6% 9.4% 7.6% 6.1% 5.1% 3.0%
Delaware Delaware 83.3% 80.1% 79.2% 70.6% 72.2% 65.6% 62.6% 52.3% 51.7% 54.2% 48.0% 46.4% 42.2% 33.4% 24.7% 18.9% 15.3% 10.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 1.3%
Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C. 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 90.0% 91.6% 93.0% 93.6% 90.9% 90.1% 88.3% 85.0% 76.2%
Florida Florida 91.2% 89.3% 88.0% 84.3% 81.7% 73.9% 65.5% 55.1% 51.7% 36.5% 29.1% 20.3% 19.8% 10.0% 8.1% 4.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia 75.1% 71.6% 68.8% 62.4% 60.3% 55.3% 45.3% 34.4% 30.8% 25.1% 20.6% 15.6% 14.0% 9.4% 8.4% 7.1% 4.3% 3.6% 2.7% 2.2% 2.1% 3.2% 0.0%
Hawaii Hawaii 91.9% 91.5% 90.5% 86.5% 83.1% 76.5% 69.0% 62.5% 53.7% 36.1% 30.7% 25.5%
Idaho Idaho 70.6% 66.4% 62.2% 54.0% 54.1% 47.5% 42.9% 33.7% 29.1% 27.6% 21.5% 6.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Illinois Illinois 88.5% 87.8% 86.4% 83.3% 83.2% 80.7% 77.6% 73.6% 73.9% 67.9% 61.7% 54.3% 44.9% 30.6% 23.5% 14.3% 7.6% 2.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Indiana Indiana 72.4% 70.8% 69.1% 64.2% 64.9% 62.4% 59.9% 55.1% 55.5% 50.6% 42.4% 34.3% 26.9% 19.5% 14.7% 8.6% 4.5% 1.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Iowa Iowa 64.0% 61.1% 59.4% 58.6% 57.2% 53.0% 47.7% 42.7% 39.6% 36.4% 30.6% 25.6% 21.2% 15.2% 13.1% 8.9% 5.1% 0.0%
Kansas Kansas 74.2% 71.4% 69.5% 66.7% 66.1% 61.0% 52.1% 41.9% 38.8% 34.8% 29.1% 22.4% 18.9% 10.5% 14.2% 9.4%
Kentucky Kentucky 58.4% 55.8% 55.8% 50.9% 52.3% 44.5% 36.8% 29.8% 30.6% 26.2% 24.3% 21.8% 19.2% 15.2% 14.8% 10.4% 7.5% 4.0% 2.4% 1.6% 1.1% 0.0% 0.0%
Louisiana Louisiana 73.2% 72.6% 72.9% 68.6% 66.5% 63.3% 54.8% 41.5% 39.7% 34.9% 30.0% 26.5% 25.4% 25.5% 27.9% 26.1% 26.0% 29.9% 21.4% 17.7% 22.5%
Maine Maine 38.7% 40.2% 42.6% 47.5% 50.8% 51.3% 51.7% 40.5% 40.3% 39.0% 35.3% 33.5% 28.1% 22.6% 21.0% 16.6% 13.5% 7.8% 3.2% 2.9% 3.1% 2.4% 0.0%
Maryland Maryland 87.2% 86.1% 85.0% 80.3% 76.6% 72.7% 69.0% 59.3% 59.8% 60.0% 50.8% 49.8% 47.6% 40.2% 37.8% 34.0% 32.3% 24.2% 20.4% 16.3% 12.2% 7.8% 4.2%
Massachusetts Massachusetts 92.0% 91.4% 90.5% 83.8% 84.6% 83.6% 84.4% 89.4% 90.2% 90.0% 89.0% 86.0% 82.0% 74.7% 66.7% 59.6% 50.7% 37.9% 31.1% 22.8% 21.3% 15.4% 13.5%
Michigan Michigan 74.6% 74.7% 75.2% 70.7% 74.0% 73.4% 70.7% 65.7% 68.2% 61.1% 47.2% 39.3% 34.9% 24.8% 20.1% 13.3% 7.3% 4.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Minnesota Minnesota 73.3% 70.9% 69.0% 66.9% 66.5% 62.2% 54.5% 49.8% 49.0% 44.1% 41.0% 34.1% 33.8% 19.1% 16.1% 9.4% 0.0%
Mississippi Mississippi 49.3% 48.8% 49.0% 47.3% 44.5% 37.7% 27.9% 19.8% 16.9% 13.4% 11.5% 7.7% 5.4% 3.1% 4.0% 2.6% 1.8% 1.0% 2.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Missouri Missouri 70.4% 69.4% 69.6% 68.1% 70.1% 66.6% 61.5% 51.8% 51.2% 46.6% 42.3% 36.3% 32.0% 25.2% 25.0% 17.2% 11.8% 4.3% 3.5% 0.0% 0.0%
Montana Montana 55.9% 54.1% 56.4% 52.9% 53.4% 50.2% 43.7% 37.8% 33.7% 31.3% 35.5% 34.7% 27.1% 17.8% 15.1%
Nebraska Nebraska 73.1% 69.8% 67.2% 62.9% 61.5% 54.3% 46.9% 39.1% 35.3% 31.3% 26.1% 23.7% 27.4% 13.6% 18.0% 0.0%
Nevada Nevada 94.2% 91.5% 87.4% 85.3% 80.9% 70.4% 57.2% 39.3% 37.8% 19.7% 16.3% 17.0% 33.8% 31.1% 16.4% 0.0%
New Hampshire New Hampshire 60.3% 59.3% 57.2% 52.2% 56.4% 58.3% 57.5% 57.6% 58.7% 56.5% 51.8% 46.7% 39.3% 30.0% 26.2% 22.1% 17.1% 10.0% 5.0% 3.0% 3.2% 2.9% 3.3%
New Jersey New Jersey 94.7% 94.4% 93.5% 89.0% 88.9% 88.6% 86.6% 81.6% 82.6% 79.9% 76.4% 70.6% 62.6% 54.4% 43.7% 32.7% 17.6% 10.6% 5.7% 2.7% 2.4% 0.0% 0.0%
New Mexico New Mexico 77.4% 75.0% 75.0% 72.1% 69.8% 65.9% 50.2% 33.2% 25.2% 18.0% 14.2% 14.0% 6.2% 5.5% 5.2% 5.3% 7.4%
New York (state) New York 87.9% 87.5% 87.4% 84.6% 85.7% 85.4% 85.5% 82.8% 83.6% 82.7% 78.9% 72.9% 65.1% 56.4% 50.0% 39.3% 29.2% 19.4% 14.9% 11.7% 12.7% 12.7% 11.5%
North Carolina North Carolina 66.1% 60.2% 57.8% 48.0% 45.5% 39.5% 33.7% 27.3% 25.5% 19.2% 14.4% 9.9% 7.2% 3.9% 3.4% 2.5% 2.4% 1.8% 1.4% 2.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
North Dakota North Dakota 59.9% 55.9% 53.4% 48.8% 44.3% 35.2% 26.6% 20.6% 16.6% 13.6% 11.0% 7.3% 5.6% 7.3% 0.0%
Ohio Ohio 77.9% 77.4% 77.5% 73.3% 75.3% 73.4% 70.2% 66.8% 67.8% 63.8% 55.9% 48.1% 41.1% 32.2% 25.6% 17.1% 12.2% 5.5% 3.9% 1.7% 1.1% 0.0%
Oklahoma Oklahoma 66.2% 65.3% 65.2% 67.3% 68.0% 62.9% 51.0% 37.6% 34.3% 26.5% 19.2% 7.4% 3.7%
Oregon Oregon 81.0% 78.7% 74.9% 67.9% 67.1% 62.2% 53.9% 48.8% 51.3% 49.8% 45.6% 32.2% 27.9% 14.8% 9.1% 5.5% 0.0%
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania 78.7% 77.1% 76.8% 69.3% 71.5% 71.6% 70.5% 66.5% 67.8% 65.1% 60.4% 54.7% 48.6% 41.6% 37.3% 30.8% 23.6% 17.9% 15.3% 13.0% 12.8% 11.3% 10.2%
Rhode Island Rhode Island 90.7% 90.9% 89.9% 87.0% 87.1% 86.4% 84.3% 91.6% 92.4% 91.9% 91.0% 88.3% 85.3% 82.0% 74.6% 63.3% 55.6% 43.8% 31.2% 23.0% 23.4% 20.8% 19.0%
South Carolina South Carolina 66.3% 60.5% 61.5% 54.1% 48.3% 41.2% 36.7% 24.5% 21.3% 17.5% 14.8% 12.8% 10.1% 7.5% 8.6% 6.9% 7.3% 5.7% 5.8% 4.9% 6.0% 5.4% 6.6%
South Dakota South Dakota 56.7% 51.9% 50.3% 46.4% 44.6% 39.3% 33.2% 24.6% 18.9% 16.0% 13.1% 10.2% 8.2% 7.3% 0.0%
Tennessee Tennessee 66.4% 63.6% 62.7% 60.4% 59.1% 52.3% 44.1% 35.2% 34.3% 26.1% 20.2% 16.2% 13.5% 7.5% 7.5% 4.2% 2.2% 0.8% 0.8% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Texas Texas 84.7% 82.5% 81.2% 79.6% 79.7% 75.0% 62.7% 45.4% 41.0% 32.4% 24.1% 17.1% 15.6% 9.2% 6.7% 4.4% 3.6%
Utah Utah 90.6% 88.2% 86.8% 84.4% 80.4% 74.9% 65.3% 55.5% 52.4% 48.0% 46.3% 38.1% 35.7% 23.4% 18.5% 20.5% 0.0%
Vermont Vermont 38.9% 38.2% 40.2% 33.8% 32.2% 38.5% 36.4% 34.3% 33.0% 31.2% 27.8% 22.1% 15.2% 10.0% 6.9% 2.0% 1.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Virginia Virginia 75.5% 73.0% 71.5% 66.0% 63.2% 55.6% 47.0% 35.3% 32.4% 29.2% 23.1% 18.3% 17.1% 12.5% 11.9% 9.5% 8.0% 6.9% 4.8% 3.8% 3.6% 2.6% 1.8%
Washington (state) Washington 84.0% 82.0% 79.9% 73.5% 73.4% 68.1% 63.2% 53.1% 56.6% 54.8% 53.0% 40.8% 35.6% 9.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
West Virginia West Virginia 48.7% 46.1% 46.9% 36.2% 39.1% 38.2% 34.6% 28.1% 28.4% 25.2% 18.7% 13.1% 10.7% 8.7% 8.1% 5.3% 3.8% 3.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Wisconsin Wisconsin 70.2% 68.3% 67.3% 64.2% 65.9% 63.8% 57.9% 53.5% 52.9% 47.3% 43.0% 38.2% 33.2% 24.1% 19.6% 14.4% 9.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Wyoming Wyoming 64.8% 65.1% 67.1% 62.7% 60.5% 56.8% 49.8% 37.3% 31.1% 29.4% 29.6% 28.8% 34.3% 29.6% 0.0%
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico 93.8% 94.4% 92.9% 66.8% 58.1% 44.2% 40.5% 30.3% 27.7% 21.8% 20.1% 14.6%

a^ This datum is from 1899 instead of from 1900.

See also

References

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Source: Urbanization in the United States
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