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Increasing Urbanization

Population Distribution by City Size, 1790 to 1890

July 19, 2012

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The number and size of cities increased dramatically between 1790 and 1890 as the country's population grew and became increasingly urban. By 1890, people living in cities of 100,000 or more made up a larger proportion of all urban dwellers. This reflected a shift from a rural, agrarian society to one focused on industrial production, especially in the Northeast and around the Great Lakes.

NOTES: The percentage of the U.S. population living in a city of 2,500 or more was 5.1 in 1790 and rose to 35.1 by 1890. Geography reflects boundaries in place at the time of each census.

The Census Bureau officially adopted 2,500 as the minimum population threshold for urban areas in 1910; prior to that population thresholds of 4,000 and 8,000 were used in Census Bureau reports.

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