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Largest US Cities by Population and Why You Should Move There

girl on a bridge overlooking city
Nick Starichenko/ Shutterstock

Largest American cities at a glance

Thinking of moving to one of the largest cities in the U.S.? You’ll probably want to consider some important factors before you move — considerations such as the average salary, rent, and the median price to buy a home. We’ve researched the largest U.S. cities by population as well as the noteworthy things that keep them booming (aka why you’d want to live there). We’ll explore the details on these top 10 largest U.S. cities:

    1. New York City — Population: 8,398,748
    2. Los Angeles — Population: 3,990,456
    3. Chicago — Population: 2,705,994
    4. Houston — Population: 2,325,502
    5. Phoenix — Population: 1,660,272
    6. Philadelphia — Population: 1,584,138
    7. San Antonio — Population: 1,532,233
    8. San Diego — Population: 1,425,976
    9. Dallas — Population: 1,345,047
    10. San Jose — Population: 1,030,119

We sourced these population statistics by using the World Population Review and population numbers from the 2018 Census estimates, which is the most recent year of conclusive Census data.

Median rent is based on date researched: August 21st, 2020

1. New York City, New York

Population: 8,398,748

Why you should move to New York City

They say everyone should live in New York City at least once in their lifetime. As the largest U.S. city, New York boasts some of the best museums, diverse cuisine, high-end fashion, and culture in the world. If you’re someone who values location over space and likes to be on the go, New York might be the city for you.

With a subway system that runs 24/7, 365 days a year, it’s fairly easy to get by without a car, which is great news because you’ll want to put that money toward all of the other things to do in the city. NYC is home to iconic sights and buildings such as Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, and — who could forget? — The Statue of Liberty. It’s possible to live in New York for years and never shake that feeling of being a tourist in your own city.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers

Most large corporations have a presence in New York, so the job market is ripe, especially if you’re in construction, trade, information services, or the financial industry. There are also plenty of jobs in the city for those in office and administrative support occupations, sales, and the service industry.

More information you need to know before moving to New York City

  • Average salary: $89,800
  • Median home list price: $760,000
  • Median monthly rent: $2,900/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in New York: The New York bagel. Some people say it’s the water. Others say it’s the way that they’re boiled. Whatever the science is behind the New York bagel, one thing’s for sure: it’s a must-have when you’re in the city. Add some schmear and the perfect cup of coffee, and you’re ready to take the city by storm!

Check out this guide to moving to New York City for a more in-depth look.

2. Los Angeles, California

Population: 3,990,456

Why you should move to Los Angeles

If you Google search “why you should move to LA,” you’ll notice a lot of YouTubers telling you why not to move to LA. Our response? We see right through that trick. Between the gorgeous weather, fantastic shopping, and an unbeatable music scene, LA is one of the largest U.S. cities for a reason.

For people who love the outdoors, LA is the adventurous backyard of your dreams. With an enviable terrain, it’s possible to go surfing at the beach and skiing in the mountains in one glorious weekend. There’s also great food, nightlife, and plenty of room for surprises with celebrity sightings around any corner. LA is home to many Hollywood stars and professional athletes, including the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers

LA is a great place for those working in the entertainment industry, as well as business management, architecture, and computer or mathematical occupations.

More information you need to know before moving to Los Angeles

  • Average salary: $74,000
  • Median home list price: $859,000
  • Median monthly rent: $3,500/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in Los Angeles: A French Dip sandwich. These simple but delicious sandwiches are served up in many LA delis, but famously from Philippe The Original. Think: Tender, thinly sliced roast beef piled high on a fresh French roll, dipped in au jus sauce and complete only with a bit of spicy mustard.

Check out this guide to moving to Los Angeles for a more in-depth look.

3. Chicago, Illinois

Population: 2,705,994

Why you should move to Chicago

Chicago is the largest American city in the Midwest, giving it all of the draw of big city living without the New York or LA prices. Given its location on picturesque Lake Michigan, many Chicago apartments sit with beautiful water views and are within walking distance to public transportation, world-class shopping, thousands of restaurants, food trucks, and culture. Home to the Sears Tower, famous museums, and five major sports franchises, including the Bulls and the Cubs, Chicago is a city that truly has something for everyone. Nestled in Illinois, where it shares a border with six other states — Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana — it’s also relatively easy to access by car for thousands of Americans.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers

If you work in industries related to trade and transportation, professional business services, or education and health services, you’re in luck. These are the best fields for job-seekers in Chicago.

More information you need to know before moving to Chicago

  • Average salary: $70,000
  • Median home list price: $329,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,761/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in Chicago: It’s a definite toss-up between extra saucy deep-dish pizza and a Chicago-style hot dog. If you go the hot dog route, make sure it’s topped with plenty of relish, diced onions, tomatoes, and peppers. And don’t forget your pickle spear!

Check out this guide to moving to Chicago for a more in-depth look.

4. Houston, Texas

Population: 2,325,502

Why you should move to Houston

Houston is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. for good reason. It has plenty of room to grow because the city sprawls so wide. Houston is so expansive you’ll almost certainly need a car to get around. As an added bonus, it also boasts a very affordable housing market with no income taxes. In addition to its massive size, Houston is an incredibly well-rounded city filled with arts, culture, and deliciously fresh seafood. It’s home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, an impressive performing arts scene thanks to the Downtown Theatre District, the Houston Rodeo, and the Astros Major League Baseball team.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers

Houston is full of trade and transportation, education and health services, and government jobs.

More information you need to know before moving to Houston:

  • Average salary: $70,000
  • Median home list price: $283,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,500/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in Houston: Viet-Cajun crawfish is a wonderfully spicy dish that’s especially popular in Houston. It comes from a foodie scene that’s heavily influenced by the city’s location next to the Gulf Coast and Louisiana.

Check out this guide to moving to Houston for a more in-depth look.

5. Phoenix, Arizona

Population: 1,660,272

Why you should move to Phoenix:

If you love the outdoors — specifically a sunny, desert mountain climate that’s great for hiking, biking, and river rafting nearly every day of the year — then Phoenix is the spot for you. The cost of living is relatively low compared to other big cities in the U.S., and public transportation is well planned. Phoenix is also home to many museums honoring Native American history and art, four professional sports teams, and plenty of golf courses that stay open year-round.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers

Phoenix has many jobs in trade and transportation, professional and business services, and education and health services.

More information you need to know before moving to Pheonix:

  • Average salary: $65,000
  • Median home list price: $289,900
  • Median monthly rent: $1,475/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in Phoenix: Green chili burritos. These are typically made with fresh pulled pork and a tasty green sauce that comes from hatch green chilies. Make sure to try at least one new dish topped with green chilies whenever you visit New Mexico or Arizona or really anywhere in the southwest.

Check out this guide to moving to Phoenix for a more in-depth look.

6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Population: 1,584,138

Why you should move to Philadelphia:

Philly is the second-largest East-Coast city in the U.S., and it’s a wonderful place to call home thanks to its excellent location. People who live in Philadelphia take advantage of the Amtrak high-speed train for easy access to New York, D.C., Baltimore, and Boston. But why leave Philly? As one of the oldest cities in America, it’s filled with incredible history and architecture, as well as a vibrant dining and nightlife scene.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers:

Jobs are plentiful in Philadelphia in many industries including education and health services, professional and business services, and the trade and transportation industry. With easy access to many other large U.S. cities, it’s also common for Philly residents to commute outside of the city for work.

More information you need to know before moving to Philadelphia

  • Average salary: $68,000
  • Median home list price: $234,900
  • Median monthly rent: $1,490/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in Philadelphia: Soft pretzels. These soft buttery treats can be found on almost every street corner or purchased fresh from a bakery where you can watch them be hand-rolled through the window. Grab some mustard for dipping, and then move on toward your main course: the Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich. Because we know you’re going to.

7. San Antonio, Texas

Population: 1,532,233

Why you should move to San Antonio

Right in the heart of Texas, San Antonio is a laid-back and sunny city filled with southwestern charm. It’s best known for historical sights such as the Alamo and its scenic San Antonio River Walk, which is lined with local shopping and craft markets. For sports enthusiasts, it’s also home to the San Antonio Spurs. And for those who enjoy craft breweries and the foodie scene, the Pearl District is an up-and-coming area filled with plenty of restaurants, breweries, and trendy historic hotels.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers

Top industries in San Antonio include trade and transportation, government, and education and health services.

More information you need to know before moving to San Antonio

  • Average salary: $61,000
  • Median home list price: $235,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,300/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in San Antonio: Tex Mex and margaritas are not to be missed, and, thankfully, they are plentiful pretty much everywhere you go in San Antonio. If you’re not sure what to order, try the Chilaquiles Verdes, and if you’re feeling a little daring, ask for a spicy marg.

8. San Diego, California

Population: 1,425,976

Why you should move to San Diego

Love the ocean, sunshine, beaches, and art? San Diego is a dream city for those seeking that laid-back, California, surf-breaks-at-lunch lifestyle. Famous for having the most temperate weather in the U.S., San Diego is placed fittingly close to excellent hiking, national parks, and, of course, the beach. It’s also full of uniquely vibrant restaurants, nightlife, and outdoor patios. Whether you’re exploring the museums of Balboa Park or studying wildlife at the San Diego Zoo, there’s plenty to see. Many residents of the city take advantage of these sights with year-round passes to these parks.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers

There are plenty of jobs to be had in San Diego in office and administrative support, food preparation and service, and business and financial operations.

More information you need to know before moving to San Diego:

  • Average salary: $75,000
  • Median home list price: $699,900
  • Median monthly rent: $2,750/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in San Diego: Baja fish tacos. Simple fresh-caught fish, cooked and lightly seasoned on a corn tortilla, and served with a slice of avocado, tomato, and lettuce. Perfect on a warm San Diego day. You really can’t go wrong!

9. Dallas, Texas

Population: 1,345,047

Why you should move to Dallas

The grown-up and more refined older brother of the three largest Texas cities, Dallas is home to incredible shopping, dining, nightlife, and also the Dallas Cowboys. Situated in the northern part of Texas, Dallas stays a little cooler than Houston and San Antonio but still enjoys plenty of sunshine. It’s a contemporary city known for its beautiful skyline, which includes the Reunion Tower and Bank of America Plaza.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers

The Dallas job market has many jobs in the trade and transportation, government, education, and health service industries.

More information you need to know before moving to Dallas:

  • Average salary: $69,000
  • Median home list price: $365,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,700/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in Dallas: Chile con queso and chips. Also known as delicious melted cheese made for dipping tortilla chips and sharing with friends. Who doesn’t enjoy that?

Check out this guide to moving to Dallas for a more in-depth look.

10. San Jose, California

Population: 1,030,119

Why you should move to San Jose

Best known as the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is about more than the tech giants such as Apple, Google, and Adobe that call it home. It also has an eclectic food scene, great school systems, and conveniently close proximity for some fabulous day trips to Napa Valley, Yosemite National Park, and Lake Tahoe. No surprise, but it costs a pretty penny to call this place home. If you can get past the price, and you’re the techy, outdoorsy type who doesn’t mind 300 days of sunshine each year, then San Jose might be the place for you.

Top 3 industries for job-seekers

San Jose has many jobs for people looking for a career in computer and mathematical occupations, office and administrative support, and sales.

More information you need to know before moving to San Jose

  • Average salary: $100,000
  • Median home list price: $925,000
  • Median monthly rent: $3,400/mo.
  • One dish you absolutely must try in San Jose: A big bowl of fresh pho and noodles. Influenced and perfected by its large Vietnamese population, this is some of the best pho you’ll find.

The other most populous cities in the United States

Relocating to one of the largest U.S. cities

Whether it’s warm weather and access to world-class hiking or skyscrapers and fine-dining that you’re looking for, these incredible U.S. cities draw the largest populations of people in the country for good reason. When considering where to move next, think about logistics such as where you can find employment but also other important factors, like how you want to spend your free time. If you do your research and plan ahead, you’re certain to find a home in one of these large U.S. cities.


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