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For Population Density Think LA, Not New York


Aired 4/9/12

A new census report shows the nation's four most densely populated urbanized areas are all in California.

A helicopter view of Downtown Los Angeles.
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Above: A helicopter view of Downtown Los Angeles.

When you imagine people living densely packed, you may think of New York City. But a new report from the Census Bureau shows California is home to the most densely populated metro areas in the United States.

America's most dense urbanized area is Los Angeles, with nearly 7,000 people per square mile. San Francisco was number two, followed by San Jose. The Central Valley city of Delano came in fourth, but it was a bit of a statistical fluke. Its population of 54,372 meant it was just large enough to be considered an "urbanized area."

The New York area came in fifth on the list. And while San Diego didn't make the top five, its 4,037 people per square mile was a greater density than that found in either Chicago or Philadelphia.

These census figures come from a new analysis of the 2010 numbers, and they don't tell the whole story. Knowing the population of an "urbanized area" depends on where you define its boundaries, and east-coast inner cities tend to be more dense than what's found in the west.

But the California Planning and Development Report points out California cities sustain dense populations over very large areas. And the Golden State is the country's most urban state, with 95 percent of its residents living in urbanized areas.

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Avatar for user 'ABR'

ABR | April 1, 2013 at 4:35 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm sorry but this goes right into the "lies, d*mn lies, and statistics" drawer. Population is NOT denser in LA with its 1- and 2-story houses than in the metro New York area. Walk ten steps on a residential street in both and you will realize this. There must be some funny business with boundaries and inclusion of uninhabited lands...

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Avatar for user 'T_Clark'

T_Clark | April 1, 2013 at 3:24 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

ABR, I think the key work here is "area". If we were talking about New York City density vs. the city of Los Angeles density, then I would completely agree with you. But, clicking on the Census Data link. The LA area, according to them, includes Long Beach and Anaheim and the New York Area includes Newark, New Jersey and part of Connecticut.

We don't have any maps to compare but consider that LA does have a good amount of single-family homes and there is also a good amount apartments too. Now consider how much open space there is in LA compared to the New York area (outside of the city). LA is nothing but people in apartments and houses where there isn't a freeway, a street or a business.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | April 1, 2013 at 5 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Interesting. The vertical nature of New York may mislead some to thinking it's more dense, but look at the world's most densley populated cities. Delhi, for example. Hardly any skyscrapers at all and actually has a lot of parks and green space, but in between the expanses of leafy parks when you go into the various neighborhoods of the city you see how densed and compact people really live.

Some areas of LA, when you get off the freeway, are pretty dense and compact.

As the article says, it depends on where the boundaries are drawn. For example, LA is extremely dense from downtown to Santa Monica, then are low density hills separating the SF valley which is also very dense. I'd be interested to know if they counting the entire city, including those areas that are geographically prohibitive of high density.

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Avatar for user 'AK49'

AK49 | April 1, 2013 at 6:39 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

ABR - Perhaps you should read the article more carefully. It does say that east coast inner cores are more dense. However, when you factor in the entire metro area, the west coast has some of the highest density urbanization in the United States. Los Angeles is bounded by mountains and water and has very dense suburban areas. It's the suburban density that makes up for the somewhat less dense core relative to New York or Boston. Nobody's lying...

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Avatar for user 'The_Furious_Cheese'

The_Furious_Cheese | February 16, 2014 at 3:52 p.m. ― 3 years, 1 month ago

Particularly in the L.A. Basin, what you typically have is an arterial boulevard with stores and other businesses, while the side streets are condos or apartment houses at least a couple of blocks deep. The resulting citycape is still fairly low-profile, but those arterial streets go on for miles and miles. (Geographically, L.A. is much bigger than NYC, but in terms of where most of the people actually live, I can see how the population density could surpass NYC, particularly if we're looking at all five boroughs.

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