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What the 50 biggest cities in America looked like 50 years ago

  • What the 50 biggest cities in America looked like 50 years ago

    More than simply numbers, the statistics surrounding a city's population growth or decline can help to tell the story of a city and its inhabitants in a way that the history alone cannot. Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau produces a survey. The demographics and population counts in this document affect things such as political representation, allocation of federal funding, and where people choose to live for the next decade.

    In putting together this list of the 50 biggest cities in America, Stacker kept in mind the fact that the census is counted every 10 years as well as the fact that next year's (2020) census is on the forefront of many people's minds. There are multiple events and factors—natural, man-made, and others—that can affect a city and its census data, and we wanted to take those into account when presenting this data. In some cities, for example, natural disasters have caused relocation to other states, while in others a booming economy has attracted people from outside the state for the prospect of new jobs.

    More important than the raw data, however, is the way each city is represented—and perhaps that is what the 2020 census is about. The 1970 census may have been less controversial in determining how many seats in the House each state would have; in an era where political factions are so deeply divided, it may be more important than ever that we understand not only where we come from, but where we're going, and how to make the most of a country with such a diverse and rich history. Read on to find out how 50 major cities have evolved over the past decades and which are the most populous today, growing in popularity, or losing population to other states.

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  • #50. New Orleans, LA

    - 2018 population estimate: 391,006 people

    The birthplace of jazz has been affected by natural disasters in the past, including Hurricane Camille in the late 1960s, but the city's most significant recent event was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The city's current population estimate of approximately 391,000 is lower than it was in 2000 and significantly lower than the 1970 census estimate of 593,471. Many residents fled after the city's infrastructure effectively collapsed during Hurricane Katrina, and the city is still rebuilding its economy.

  • #49. Tampa, FL

    - 2018 population estimate: 392,890 people

    After a surge in population growth in the 1950s and '60s, Tampa saw a leveling off, but it continues to outpace the national average for growth. Much of its recent increase in population can be attributed to new arrivals, while in the past, the influence of Disney World on the central Florida economy could have caused the influx of new residents.

  • #48. Arlington, TX

    - 2018 population estimate: 398,112 people

    Arlington more than doubled its population between 1980 and 2000. Possible reasons for its surge in population in recent years could be the 1972 relocation of the Washington Senators baseball team (now Texas Rangers) to what is currently known as Ameriquest Stadium and resulting economic growth, or the stadium for the Dallas Cowboys that was completed in 2009. Seating 80,000, it's the third-largest stadium in the NFL.

  • #47. Tulsa, OK

    - 2018 population estimate: 400,669 people

    Tulsa has grown significantly since 1925, when it became a rest stop on Route 66, the interstate highway connecting California and Chicago. Between 1960 and 1980 it underwent a period of urban renewal, where the city was granted eminent domain for the acquisition of property to develop new real estate. After the 1982 oil bust, Tulsa was forced to diversify its economy and even survived the early 2000s economic recession, buoyed by low housing prices relative to other parts of the country.

  • #46. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

    - 2018 population estimate: 425,403 people

    The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul saw a peak in population growth in the 1950s, at 521,718, which eventually stabilized by about 1990. The population of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, on the other hand, has increased quickly as residents have relocated from city to surrounding suburbs. Though there has traditionally been a large European (especially Scandinavian) flavor to the area, there has been increased ethnic diversification in recent years, with about 20% of the population identifying as black.

  • #45. Oakland, CA

    - 2018 population estimate: 429,082 people

    Oakland is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S.; the San Francisco Bay Area city ranked first on ethnoracial diversity on WalletHub's 2019 list. The black population peaked at 47% of Oakland's total population in 1980 but has since declined to 28% as of the 2010 census.

  • #44. Virginia Beach, VA

    - 2018 population estimate: 450,189 people

    Virginia Beach is seeing a slowdown in population growth in recent years, part of a statewide trend. Experts attribute this to, among other things, a death-to-birth imbalance in the state and the fact that retirees are not moving there.

  • #43. Long Beach, CA

    - 2018 population estimate: 467,354 people

    Southern California's Long Beach has seen a slow population increase in recent years. Like in much of the rest of the region, there has been a steady decline in the percentage of the population that comprises non-Latino whites since the 1970s, from nearly 90% in 1970 to less than 50% as of the 2010 census.

  • #42. Omaha, NE

    - 2018 population estimate: 468,262 people

    Despite a 1975 tornado that inflicted between $250 and $500 million worth of damage to Omaha, the city has seen a rise in population since the 1970s. While 1970 estimates were around 346, 929 people, the current estimate is 468,262.

  • #41. Raleigh, NC

    - 2018 population estimate: 469,298 people

    Raleigh's population has grown by leaps and bounds since 1970, when it was 122,870, to today, when it is more than triple that number. Some possible reasons for this growth include the 1987 bond proposals for improvements to the city, including a baseball stadium and a $40 million road program, and the 1991 opening of Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, a $13.5 million entertainment complex.

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