American cities that have grown the most since 1950
In 1950, the U.S. population reached a new milestone of 150.1 million people. That number more than doubled by 2016 and is only expected to continue climbing: Experts predict the U.S. to be home to more than 400 million people by 2050.
There's more to population growth than a postwar baby boom, of course, As life expectancies have lengthened from 69 years old in 1950 to a full decade older today, the total number of babies being born outpaces the total number of deaths. Populations also swell when people from other areas move in for job opportunities, warmer weather, or to be closer to family or other loved ones. Each year, an estimated 40 million Americans move at least once, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program.
But what cities have grown the most in the U.S. since 1950? To find out, Stacker pored over 66 years of U.S. Census data from 1950 through 2016 (the latest data available) to compile a list of the 100 largest American cities by population. The difference in total population for each city between 1950 and 2016 was then calculated. Stacker further trimmed the list down to the 25 cities with the largest increase in inhabitants from 1950 to 2016. For the purposes of this gallery, cities are ordered from fewest to most new residents added in the 66 years reviewed.
While some states like California and Texas have experienced rapid growth across their borders, some cities in states like Utah and Oregon didn't make the cut. Whether you've already planted your roots in one of these U.S. cities, or are looking to make your home elsewhere, check out the 25 cities that have grown the most since 1950.
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#25. Raleigh, NC
- Population change: 393,201 increase (+599%)
- 2016 population: 458,880
- 1950 population: 65,679
The population of Raleigh, N.C., has grown by 3% annually for the past century, and projections say the city will reach 600,000 inhabitants by 2035, according to Raleigh's City Planning Department. Raleigh's newest residents are largely comprised of millennials and retirees.
#24. Oklahoma City, OK
- Population change: 394,863 increase (+162%)
- 2016 population: 638,367
- 1950 population: 243,504
Oklahoma City continues to experience population growth despite cities throughout the state seeing stagnant or decreasing populations. Oklahoma City's secret may lie in its below-average cost of living and shorter-than-average commute times.
#23. Colorado Springs, CO
- Population change: 419,629 increase (+923%)
- 2016 population: 465,101
- 1950 population: 45,472
Americans on the move may be looking to Colorado Springs, Colo., for its low rates of violent crime and reasonable cost of living. Not to be overlooked, Colorado Springs is nationally ranked for its percentage of residents with high school, bachelor's, and graduates degrees.
#22. Indianapolis, IN
- Population change: 427,991 increase (+100%)
- 2016 population: 855,164
- 1950 population: 427,173
The automobile industry in the late 1800s brought thousands of Americans to Indianapolis. In 1970, the city's population saw another major surge when Indianapolis and Marion County merged, increasing the city's population by nearly half overnight. A 2018 study at Indiana University found that Indianapolis and its surrounding areas represent the region of highest population growth anywhere in the state.
#21. Fresno, CA
- Population change: 430,384 increase (+470%)
- 2016 population: 522,053
- 1950 population: 91,669
Fresno is located in California's Central Valley, where 8% of U.S. agricultural output is produced on just 1% of the country's farmland. In spite of Fresno's rapid population growth since 1950, the city is among California's poorest and has repeatedly made national headlines for its crystal meth epidemic.
#20. Virginia Beach, VA
- Population change: 447,212 increase (+8,297%)
- 2016 population: 452,602
- 1950 population: 5,390
For two decades after 1950, the population of Virginia Beach doubled or nearly doubled. The city's population has grown more slowly in recent years but continues nevertheless—largely due to the expansion of Washington D.C.'s suburbs.
#19. Albuquerque, NM
- Population change: 462,265 increase (+477%)
- 2016 population: 559,277
- 1950 population: 97,012
In a 1942 letter, journalist Ernie Pyle urged Americans to move to Albuquerque, N.M., to live a life unburdened by the soot and smoke of large cities. The Albuquerque City Council in the 1950s began a similar campaign with ads urging people to make their homes in the Southwest town because it was a “wonderful place to live.”
#18. Mesa, AZ
- Population change: 467,797 increase (+2,786%)
- 2016 population: 484,587
- 1950 population: 16,790
Many soldiers who trained and worked at Falcon Field Airport and Williams Air Force Base during World War II made their homes in the 1950s in Mesa, Ariz. The population spike attracted business owners; and in the years to follow, new jobs in the aerospace industry, farming sector, and technology companies drove more Americans to make this desert city home.
#17. Columbus, OH
- Population change: 484,189 increase (+129%)
- 2016 population: 860,090
- 1950 population: 375,901
Although many Midwest cities have suffered population decreases since the mid-1900s, Columbus, Ohio, seems to be an exception to the rule. That city's population has exploded, along with housing prices—Columbus was ranked by Realtor.com in 2018 as having the fourth-hottest housing market in the country.
#16. Tucson, AZ
- Population change: 485,252 increase (+1,068%)
- 2016 population: 530,706
- 1950 population: 45,454
Staggering population increases in Phoenix and Tucson have led some experts to predict the Arizonan cities may merge by 2040. Job-hunters have been moving to Tucson in particular for its extensive aerospace and defense sectors.2018 All rights reserved.