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Our Growing Country

The census has counted the U.S. population every 10 years since 1790. Here's a look at how the country has grown.

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The U.S. Population

Inside the Numbers

  • The first census in 1790 counted the original 13 states, plus the districts of Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont, and the Southwest Territory.
  • The U.S. passed the 100 million mark in the 1920 Census. The country passed 200 million in 1970 and 300 million in 2010.
  • The 1960 Census was the first one to include the current 50 states.
  • The census first began counting Puerto Rico in 1910. The 1920 Census included both Guam and American Samoa for the first time. The Virgin Islands joined the decennial count in 1940, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands joined in 1970.
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The Biggest Jump

Inside the Numbers

  • The largest increase in total population occurred between the 1990 and 2000 censuses, when the U.S. population grew by 32,712,033.
  • The largest percentage increase was between the second and third censuses, from 1800 to 1810, when the country’s population grew 36.4%—from 5,308,483 to 7,239,881.
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The Most Populous Cities in 1790 vs. 2010

1790
2010
1
New York City

33,131

New York City

8,175,133

2
Philadelphia

28,522

Los Angeles

3,792,621

3
Boston Town

18,320

Chicago

2,695,598

4
Baltimore Town

16,359

Houston

2,099,451

5
Charleston, S.C.

13,503

Philadelphia

1,526,006

Inside the Numbers

  • The 1880 Census was the first to use temporary census takers to collect responses.
  • From 1790 through 1870, U.S. marshals conducted the count.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau first mailed questionnaires to homes in 1960.
  • In 2020, for the first time, you can choose to respond online, by phone, or by mail.
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The People Behind the Count

Engravings and photos show census takers at work in (left to right, top to bottom) 1870, 1940, 1960, 1990, 2020, 2020.

Engravings and photos show census takers at work in 1870, 1940, 1960, 1990, and 2020 (left to right, top to bottom).

Responding Over the Years

  • In each of the 23 decennial censuses, New York City has been the most populous city.
  • The 10 most populous urban places in 2010 were: New York City (8,175,133); Los Angeles (3,792,621); Chicago (2,695,598); Houston (2,099,451); Philadelphia (1,526,006); Phoenix (1,445,632); San Antonio (1,327,407); San Diego (1,307,402); Dallas (1,197,816); and San Jose (945,942).
  • All told, four cities have held the No. 2 spot behind New York: Chicago (10 times), Philadelphia (7), Los Angeles (3), and Baltimore (3).

     

It’s never been easier to respond from your home. 

 

 


Explore more census facts from the past 230 years.