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The 10 Most Crowded Cities in America—and the 10 Least Crowded

Ellen Gutoskey
Just a normal day in New York City's Times Square in 2013.
Just a normal day in New York City's Times Square in 2013. / George Rose/Getty Images
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With its tightly packed skyscrapers and crammed subway cars, New York City is probably the most stereotypical example of a crowded U.S. metropolis. Social distancing aside, it’s not an inaccurate portrait. According to Rent.com, the Big Apple has about 27,547 residents per square mile, making it the most densely populated city in the country.

New York City’s residential crowds have also spilled over into the surrounding area. New Jersey’s Jersey City and Newark—both popular places for Manhattan commuters to live—are the third and ninth most densely populated cities, respectively. California’s Bay Area is another population hotspot. San Francisco came in second place with 18,808 residents per square mile; and Berkeley rounded out the top 10 with nearly 11,600. The rest of the list is pretty much what you’d expect. Boston, Miami, Chicago, and Philadelphia all ranked in the top 10; and Washington, D.C. missed it by just one spot.

While bustling urban centers can be fun for a few nights, living there full-time definitely isn’t for everyone. Some people would prefer to put down roots on a patch of land where you can’t see another house for miles. But what about those of us who’d still like to live in a city—just not a crowded one? Rent.com compiled a list of those, too. To be included, cities had to cover at least 10 square miles and have at least 50,000 residents.

Arizona is the clear champion of sparsely populated cities. It has three in the top 10—Buckeye, Goodyear, and Casa Grande—with residents per square mile ranging from 212 to 535. Other arid locales in Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas made the list, too. But the first place finisher is much farther north: Anchorage, Alaska, with a population density of just 169.

If you don’t see your city on either top 10 list below, you can look for it on the full list of 50 most crowded cities or their 50 least crowded counterparts.

10 Most Densely Populated Cities

  1. New York City, New York // 27,547
  2. San Francisco, California // 18,808
  3. Jersey City, New Jersey // 17,720
  4. Boston, Massachusetts // 14,345
  5. Miami, Florida // 13,046
  6. Santa Ana, California // 12,186
  7. Chicago, Illinois // 11,835
  8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania // 11,813
  9. Newark, New Jersey // 11,658
  10. Berkeley, California // 11,592

10 Least Densely Populated U.S. Cities

  1. Anchorage, Alaska // 169
  2. Buckeye, Arizona // 212
  3. Suffolk, Virginia // 230
  4. Carson City, Nevada // 387
  5. Goodyear, Arizona // 454
  6. Casa Grande, Arizona // 535
  7. Augusta, Georgia // 654
  8. Norman, Oklahoma // 699
  9. Port Arthur, Texas // 706
  10. North Port, Florida // 710
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