The Washington Post

The 20 most populous metro areas in the United States, in 1 amazing chart

There are few things worse in this world than listening to New Yorkers refer to "The City" -- with the implicit assumption that you know of which metropolis they speak.

But, according to this amazing chart, these Empire Staters have a point: New York City is the boss of American cities. Here's the chart, which tracks the 20 largest U.S. metro areas from 1790 though 2010 (Click on the chart for a bigger version).


Chart courtesy of Peakbagger.com

Starting in the early 19th century, New York City has been number one and never given up that pole position. (It's the Kentucky hoops recruiting class of big city populations.) Philadelphia, too, has been relatively consistent population-wise over the centuries -- starting at number one in 1790 and standing at number five in 2010. Los Angeles, which only entered the top 20 metros in 1910, is now the second largest. Chicago -- President Obama's hometown -- has risen from the mid-teens in late 1800s all the way to number three in 2010. (Call it the "Jay Cutler effect.")

Even more intriguing are the metros that have tumbled significantly over the decades . Follow Detroit's rise and fall and you follow the rise and fall of the manufacturing industry in America.  The Motor City broke into the top 20 in 1840 and within 100 years was one of the five largest metro areas in the country. The last three decades have seen a population free fall in Detroit, however, all the way to the number 12 in 2010. St. Louis is now barely on the list after peaking at the fourth most populous metro area in the late 1800s. Baltimore has fallen from top five to barely top twenty. (Tommy Carcetti weeps.)

And what about the metros that briefly broke into the top 20?  Rochester (N.Y) had a brief run in the mid 1800s. Seattle spent 20 years in the top 20 in the early 20th century before returning in the 1970s and now standing as the 14th largest metropolis. Heck, New Haven (Conn.) got a little run in the top 20 for two decades in the early 1800s.

Prepare to lose an hour (or three) following the rise and fall of the various cities. And check out the full explanation of the data behind the chart here.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday. Get caught up on the race.
New Hampshire primary: What to expect
New Hampshire will hold a traditional primary just eight days after the Iowa caucuses. Polling in the Granite state has historically been volatile in the final weeks before the primary. After the Iowa caucuses, many New Hampshire voters cement their opinions.
The Post's Ed O'Keefe says ...
Something has clicked for Bush in New Hampshire in the past few days. What has transpired by no means guarantees him a top-tier finish in Tuesday’s Republican primary here, but the crowds turning out to see him are bigger, his delivery on the stump is crisper and some of his key rivals have stumbled. At the least, the developments have mostly silenced talk of a hasty exit and skittish donors.
The feminist appeal may not be working for Clinton
In New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders is beating Clinton among women by eight percentage points, according to a new CNN-WMUR survey. This represents a big shift from the results last week in the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton won women by 11 points.
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She left the state Sunday to go to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 40%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.