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Census: 8 of 10 Americans now urbanites

Move over, New York City. Nine of the 10 most densely populated areas in the U.S. are out West, and eight out of 10 Americans are now urbanites, a U.S. Census Bureau report released Monday shows.

The Charlotte, N.C., area is growing at the fastest rate, increasing by 64.6 percent, followed by Austin, Texas, at 51.1 percent, according to census figures from 2000 to 2010.

“It’s one of those things we’re seeing -- the South and West are definitely growing, and growing more than other regions in the country,” Stacy Gimbel Vidal, spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau, told msnbc.com. “It is hard for us to speculate the 'why' people are flocking to and congregating in those areas.”


The nation’s urban population grew by 12.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, outpacing the nation’s overall growth rate of 9.7 percent for the same period, according to census figures.

Of the 10 most densely populated urbanized areas nationwide, nine are in the West, with seven of those in California.

The nation’s most densely populated urbanized area is Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, with nearly 7,000 people
per square mile. The San Francisco-Oakland area is the second most densely populated at 6,266 people per square mile, followed by San Jose (5,820 people per square mile), and in the Central Valley, Delano, with 5,483 people per square mile, ranks fourth, according to census figures.

The New York-Newark area is fifth, with an overall density of 5,319 people per square mile.

“Urban areas — defined as densely developed residential, commercial and other nonresidential areas — now account for 80.7 percent of the U.S. population, up from 79.0 percent in 2000,” the bureau said in a release. “Although the rural population — the population in any areas outside of those classified as ‘urban’ — grew by a modest amount from 2000 to 2010, it continued to decline as a percentage of the national population.”

The census data identifies two types of urban areas: “urbanized areas” of 50,000 or more people and “urban clusters” of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people. There are 486 urbanized areas and 3,087 urban clusters nationwide.

Other notable census finds:

  • The New York-Newark area continues to be the nation’s most populous urbanized area, with 18,351,295 residents. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim is the second most populous (12,150,996), followed by the Chicago area (8,608,208).
  • Maine tops the nation as the most rural state, beating out Vermont. According to the new data, 61.3 percent of Maine’s population lives in rural areas, compared to Vermont’s 61.1 percent.
  • States with the largest rural populations were Texas (3,847,522), North Carolina (3,233,727) and Pennsylvania (2,711,092).

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