The COVID-19 pandemic has punctuated an otherwise steady trend towards increased urbanization in the U.S. that began over two centuries ago. While urban areas account for just over 3% of American land, they are home to more than 80% of the population. The U.S. urban population has increased rapidly since the late 1800s and overtook the rural population over a century ago. However, this pattern may not hold in the coming years. With the rise in working from home seen during the pandemic, many city-dwellers are rethinking their location and moving to more affordable (and less crowded) parts of the country.
While the share of U.S. soil marked by urban landscapes represents just a small fraction of total land area, urban land use has grown substantially since 1945 when it accounted for only two-thirds of a percent. As of 2012, the amount of land covered by urban areas had grown to nearly 70 million acres, representing 3.1% of total land area. However, urban land use and urban growth are not distributed evenly throughout the country.
To find the most urbanized states, researchers at Porch analyzed the latest data from FiveThirtyEight, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers ranked states according to FiveThirtyEight’s urbanization index. The index calculation is based on the average number of people living within a small radius of each census tract; a weighted average is then calculated to create a state-level index. This method of calculation better reflects population clustering, giving it an advantage over a simple population density or urban land use measure. Researchers also included the urban land area percentage of total, the population density, and the total population.
The analysis found that in California, urban areas represent 5.3% of the total land area, compared to 3.1% of the entire country. California is the 3rd most urbanized state. Here is a summary of the data for California:
- Urbanization index: 12.19
- Urban land area percentage of total: 5.3%
- Population density (per square mile): 253.6
- Population: 39,512,223
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Urbanization index: N/A
- Urban land area percentage of total: 3.1%
- Population density (per square mile): 92.9
- Population: 328,239,523
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Porch’s website: https://porch.com/advice/most-urbanized-states