It's no surprise that New York City, in addition to being home to the most residents of any U.S. city, is also the most densely populated. Other urban centers, particularly along the coasts, tend to have high population density as well.

Some major cities, though, aren't nearly as densely populated.

Perhaps the best examples can be found in Texas, where cities occupy larger land areas than most elsewhere.

Houston, the nation's fourth largest city in terms of population, is the 51st most dense of the 100 most populous cities, registering about 3,500 people per square mile. A story in the October issue of Governing explores how the city became the country's most sprawling major metro area.

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Further north, Dallas is just about as densely populated and is the ninth most populous city.

Similar cities include Phoenix (sixth most populous nationally) with a population density of 2,798 people/sq. mile and San Antonio (seventh most populous) with 2,880 people/sq. mile.

The density of these cities pales in comparison to the more urban population centers along the coasts. Of the 100 most populous cities, the following had the highest population density (shown in persons/square mile) in 2010:

  1. New York, N.Y.: 27,012.4 
  2. San Francisco, Calif.: 17,179.2
  3. Jersey City, N.J.: 16,736.6
  4. Boston, Mass.: 12,792.7
  5. Santa Ana, Calif.: 11,900.8
  6. Chicago, Ill.: 11,841.8
  7. Newark, N.J.: 11,458.3
  8. Philadelphia, Pa.: 11,379.5
  9. Miami, Fla.: 11,135.9
  10. Hialeah, Fla.: 10,474.2
Here's a map of the 200 most populous cities and other Census-designated places, with the most dense shown in dark blue. (Click to open full-screen interactive map in new window)


Plotting each jurisdiction's land area illustrates just how many of the nation's largest cities are scattered throughout the South and western region. Larger map markers shown below represent cities spanning greater land areas. (Click to open full-screen interactive map in new window)