PUBLISHED: 23:12 EST, 26 March 2012 | UPDATED: 23:13 EST, 26 March 2012
Americans are ditching the wide open spaces and romance of the wilderness for the crowded streets of cities as Census data shows 8 of every 10 are now considered urbanites.
The most urban state is California – one that dominates the popular imagination as a land of empty deserts, never-ending beaches and thick redwood forests.
According to the latest Census data collected in 2010, a total of 80.7 per cent of Americans lived in urban areas, up from 79 per cent in 2000.
Still at the top: The New York-Newark area is still the most populous in the country, but Charlotte, North Carolina and Austin, Texas also had big hikes
At the same time, the population of urban areas grew by 12.1 per cent, much faster than the country’s growth rate of 9.7 per cent from 2000 to 2010.
As a result, only 19.3 per cent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas in 2010, which is down from 21 per cent in 2000.
More people residing in urban areas could drive up demand for housing, public transportation, road repairs and social services such as schools and healthcare, a change that can be problematic as this is a time when city budgets are starving from cuts in state aid and lower property-tax revenues.
In some places, the growth rate was more than 50 per cent, including Charlotte, North Carolina, where the population increased by 64.6 per cent over the decade.
Another state that showed interesting results was California, where almost all of the residents- 95 per cent- live in urban areas. Consequently the state has the largest urban population, 35.4 million.
Out of the 10 most densely populated areas in the entire country, seven are in the Golden State.
Silver city in the Golden state: The area made up of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim- which includes Venice Beach (pictured) is the second-most populated in the country
The area made up of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim is the second-most populated in the country, with more than 12.1 million residents. It is also the most densely populated.
‘Even though you think of the West as these wide open spaces, many of these people are living in highly dense urban areas,’ said William Frey, a Brookings Institution senior fellow who specializes in metropolitan demographics.
One reason for such density is simply that much of the land in western states is off-limits, used by the federal government for national parks, defense, and other endeavors, Mr Frey said.
The New York and Newark area is still the most populous, with 18.4 million residents, a position it has held since the U.S. Census first defined urbanized areas in 1950.
Chicago is third.
Massive growth: In Charlotte, North Carolina the Census showed a population growth 64.6 per cent over the past decade
Among urbanized areas with populations of 1 million or more, Charlotte grew at the fastest rate, followed by Austin, Texas which increased 51.1 per cent. The part of Nevada encompassing Las Vegas and Henderson rose 43.5 per cent over the decade.
Charlotte and Austin also had the highest rates of land area change, with Charlotte’s geography increasing by 70.5 per cent and Austin’s by 64.4 per cent.
‘It isn’t just migration,’ Mr Frey said. ‘It’s that urbanized areas are bigger in size.’
The Midwest dominated the birth of new major cities, with Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Grand Island, Nebraska; Manhattan, Kansas, and Midland, Michigan, all joining the ranks.
Arizona’s Lake Havasu City and Sierra Vista are also joined the ranks of cities as well, being deemed urbanized areas.