The 25 Biggest US Cities in 1950 Compared to Today

The 25 Biggest US Cities in 1950 Compared to Today

In America, one thing the ’50s are famous for is being the time of great migration from urban centers out to the suburbs. But city life was central, as it pretty much always has been, and probably always will be. As of 1950, one-quarter of Americans lived in the country’s 50 most populous cities, with 1 in 10 living in one of the top 5 cities.

If you’re curious about the biggest US cities in 1950, we’ve got them for you here. They’re ranked by population (not area). We compare the rankings and populations to estimates from today (as this is written before the 2020 census has been completed and its data publicized).

Most Populous Cities in American in 1950

  1. New York City – 1950 population: 7,891,957 – Rank today: 1; population ~8.4 million
  1. Chicago, IL – 1950 population: 3,620,962 – Rank today: 3; population ~2.7 million
  1. Philadelphia, PA – 1950 population: 2,071,605 – Rank today: 6; population ~1.6 million
  1. Los Angeles, CA – 1950 population: 1,970,358 – Rank today: 2; population ~4 million
  1. Detroit, MI – 1950 population: 1,849,568 – Rank today: 23; population ~670,000
  1. Baltimore, MD – 1950 population: 949,708 – Rank today: 30; population ~602,000
  1. Cleveland, OH – 1950 population: 914,808 – Rank today: 52; population ~383,000
  1. St. Louis, MO – 1950 population: 856,796 – Rank today: 64; population ~302,000
  1. Washington, DC – 1950 population: 802,178 – Rank today: 20; population ~703,000
  1. Boston, MA – 1950 population: 801,444 – Rank today: 21; population ~695,000
  1. San Francisco, CA – 1950 population: 775,357 – Rank today: 15; population ~885,000
  1. Pittsburgh, PA – 1950 population: 676,806 – Rank today: 66; population ~300,000
  1. Milwaukee, WI – 1950 population: 637,392 – Rank today: 31; population ~592,000
  1. Houston, TX – 1950 population: 596,163 – Rank today: 4; population ~2.4 million
  1. Buffalo, NY – 1950 population: 580,132 – Rank today: 83; population ~256,000
  1. New Orleans, LA – 1950 population: 570,445 – Rank today: 50; population ~392,000
  1. Minneapolis, MN – 1950 population: 521,718 – Rank today: 46; population ~426,000
  1. Cincinnati, OH – 1950 population: 503,998 – Rank today: 65; population ~303,000
  1. Seattle, WA – 1950 population: 467,591 – Rank today: 18; population ~746,000
  1. Kansas City, MO – 1950 population: 456,622 – Rank today: 38; population ~493,000
  1. Newark, NJ – 1950 population: 438,776 – Rank today: 73; population ~283,000
  1. Dallas, TX – 1950 population: 434,462 – Rank today: 9; population ~1.4 million
  1. Indianapolis, IN – 1950 population: 427,173 – Rank today: 17; population ~868,000
  1. Denver, CO – 1950 population: 415,786 – Rank today: 19; population ~718,000
  1. San Antonio, TX – 1950 population: 408,442 – Rank today: 7; population ~1.6 million

Top 25 US Cities Today that Didn’t Make the Cut in 1950

There are a number of US cities that are in the top 25 most populous today that didn’t register on the list back in 1950. These include:

  • Phoenix, AZ – Rank today: 5; population ~1.7 million – Rank in 1950: 99; population: 106,8181
  • San Diego, CA – Rank today: 8; population ~1.5 million – Rank in 1950: 31; population: 334,387
  • San Jose, CA – Rank today: 10; population: ~1.1 million – Rank in 1950: This one didn’t even crack the top 100 at the time; population: 95,280
  • Austin, TX – Rank today: 11; population: ~966,000 – Rank in 1950: 75; population: 132,459
  • Jacksonville, FL – Rank today: 12; population: ~905,000 – Rank in 1950: 49; population: 204,517
  • Fort Worth, TX – Rank today: 13; population: ~896,000 – Rank in 1950: 38; population: 278,778
  • Columbus, OH – Rank today: 14; population: ~894,000 – Rank in 1950: 28; population: 375,901
  • Charlotte, NC – Rank today: 16; population: ~873,000 – Rank in 1950: 70; population: 134,042
  • El Paso, TX – Rank today: 22; population: ~683,000 – Rank in 1950: 76; population: 130,485
  • Nashville, TN – Rank today: 24; population: ~670,000 – Rank in 1950: 56; population: 174,307
  • Portland, OR – Rank today: 25; population: ~655,000 – Rank in 1950: 29; population: 373,628

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Leonard Riforgiato is a successful furniture manufacturing entrepreneur, a Miami resident, and co-owner of legacy furniture company Heywood-Wakefield.

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