This 2050 Population Projection Shows How the United States Is Falling Behind the Rest of the World

There’s a lot to love about the United States. Great beaches. Fantastic restaurants. World-class beers. But if a population projection from the Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto is correct, the U.S. is falling behind in one area — big cities.

The Earth’s population is shifting, and by 2050 the United States will have just one of the 20 largest cities in the world.

First, we’ll show the obvious U.S. city that remains in the top-10 globally in the 2050 population projection. Then we’ll discuss the other nine largest in the U.S. before revealing the world’s biggest urban areas in 2050 (page 11)

To learn how these numbers were calculated, head to page 16.

1. New York City

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • 2050 rank: No. 9
  • 2010 rank: No. 6
  • Population projection: 24.7 million

It should come as no surprise that New York City remains the United States’ largest city on the population projection. A couple factors keep it No. 1. For one, the metropolitan area is huge. It includes all of Long Island, most of New Jersey, and a portion of Pennsylvania. Not only that, but the area remains a top destination for immigrants. As we are about to find out, New York’s isn’t alone in the U.S. with its trend of population growth while falling behind on a global scale.

Next: A growing metro area will slip in the world rankings in 2050.

2. Los Angeles

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • 2050 rank: No. 17
  • 2010 rank: No. 13
  • Population projection: 16.4 million

The greater Los Angeles area is projected to go from 13.3 million people to more than 16 million by 2050. Though the area is growing, it’s not growing fast enough to keep up with other world metropolises. As long it’s not laid to waste by North Korean nuclear missiles, L.A. is going to sit at No. 17 globally in the 2050 population projection.

Next: Our next city’s growth sees it tumbling down the list.

3. Chicago

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • 2050 rank: No. 35
  • 2010 rank: No. 25
  • Population projection: 11.9 million

Even though Illinois is the state where no one wants to live during retirement, the Chicago area is projected to go from 9.5 million to nearly 12 million. That 2050 population projection makes it one of the biggest cities in North America, but far from the top of the pile at the global level.

Next: Where a 25% population increase can’t keep pace with the fastest-growing cities.

4. Miami

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • 2050 rank: No. 64
  • 2010 rank: No. 46
  • Population projection: 7.5 million   

Florida is a retirement hotspot, so internal immigration is going to keep Miami’s population growing. The area’s population is projected to go from 6 million to 7.5 million by 2050. That’s a 25% increase, but even that kind of growth can’t keep Miami in the top 50 based on projected population. To put it in perspective, a 25% increase is one-tenth the pace of another city on our list.

Next: Another metro area in the northeast predicted to lose ground.

5. Philadelphia

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • 2050 rank: No. 67
  • 2010 rank: No. 50
  • Population projection: 7.3 million

The Philadelphia metro area, which includes parts of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, had a little over 6 million people in 2016. Just like the other U.S. cities we’ve seen so far and the ones to follow, the area will keep adding people. The 2050 population projection from the University of Toronto shows well over 7 million people. Despite the fact it has one of the most expensive rent markets in the U.S., Philadelphia is projected to add more people while sliding down the world population rankings.

Next: A city in the Lone Star state shows up.

6. Dallas-Fort Worth

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • 2050 rank: No. 82
  • 2010 rank: No. 56
  • Population projection: 6.5 million

The U.S. Census Bureau shows the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area with 7.6 million people, including a sliver of Oklahoma. The University of Toronto study doesn’t use the same geography for its calculations, but its data show an upward trend in projected population. The university study predicts 5.4 million residents in 2025 and an extra 1.1 million by 2050. Despite the drastic increase, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, like the other big cities in the United States, is going to slip down the rankings on a global scale.

Next: Will the South rise again? 

7. Atlanta

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • Rank: No. 87
  • Population projection: 6.1 million

The city that has a ton of multi-millionaires is projected to have a ton more people by 2050. A metro area with 5.8 million people will have more than 6.1 million by 2050, according to the University of Toronto population projection. It will be a top 10 population locale in the United States, but it will hardly factor in the discussion on a global scale.

Next: Let’s stay in the south.

8. Houston

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • 2050 rank: No. 90
  • 2010 rank: No. 64
  • Population projection: 6.06 million

Houston proper is predicted to be the third-largest U.S. city in 2046 by the Census Bureau. The University of Toronto researchers, using different data and metro area maps, predict 6.06 million people by 2050. That’s a healthy population projection, but it’s just one-seventh the amount of the world’s most populous city at that time.

Next: We head back to the eastern seaboard for our next two U.S. cities.

9. Boston

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • 2050 rank: No. 91
  • 2010 rank: No. 65
  • Population projection: 6.04 million

Boston is the most innovative city in the United States. That’s part of the reason its metro population is projected to go from 4.8 million to more than 6 million by 2050. Yet that growth and innovation won’t prevent Boston from barely being in the top 100 in projected population globally.

Next: One more U.S. metro area sneaks into 2050 top 100.

10. Washington, D.C.

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • 2050 rank: No. 95
  • 2010 rank: No. 67
  • Population projection: 5.8 million

On the presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump vowed to “drain the swamp.” Actually, he’s cashing in on his presidency and the Washington, D.C., metro area is poised to cash in on a growing population. Yet even with a projected population of 5.8 million people in 2050, it barely sneaks into the top 100 globally.

We’ve just seen the largest U.S. cities based on 2050 projected population and where they stand globally. Now let’s visit the places that have the United States falling behind the rest of the world.

Next: One country will be hogging the largest cities list in 2050.

1. Mumbai, India

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • Rank: No. 1
  • Population projection: 42.4 million

India’s big west coast city is only getting bigger. According to the population projection, the metro area is going to house more than 42 million people in 2050. This isn’t the first Indian city we’ll encounter from here on out, but it is the only one with a $1 billion house.

Next: Sprawling capital city area is bound to keep growing.

2. Delhi, India

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • Rank: No. 2
  • Population projection: 36.1 million

The Delhi metro area includes the capital city of New Delhi. The Delhi area was home to an estimated 27 million people in 2016 and is only getting bigger. The population projection shows the area will be 33% more populous by 2050. Bad news for people who cherish their personal space, but great news for the street food vendors.

Next: This city could grow by 250%.

3. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • Rank: No. 3
  • Population projection: 35.1 million

The University of Toronto research shows Dhaka with a 14.7 million people in 2010. If the figures are correct, the capital city of Bangladesh is poised to grow by roughly 250% by 2050. Given those numbers, it shouldn’t be surprising to know Dhaka is one of the world’s fastest-growing cities and that Bangladesh has an increasingly urban population.

Next: A giant city could keep growing for years to come.

4. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • Rank: No. 4
  • Population projection: 35 million

The University of Toronto data predicts this capital city metro area will hold 35 million people by 2050. That’s just the beginning. The study predicts 58.4 million people by 2075 and 83.5 million by 2100. Suddenly, New York with it’s 24.7 million people doesn’t seem so crowded after all.

Next: A country with a high number of DACA immigrants has yet another rapidly-growing city.

5. Kolkata, India

Graphic by Nicole Moore/The Cheat Sheet

  • Rank: No. 5
  • Population projection: 33 million

No, the record isn’t skipping. India has yet another of the cities poised to be the most populated by 2050. India actually has thousands of DACA immigrants in the U.S., but the internal population growth far outpaces that number.

Next: The secret to the numbers

How the population projection was calculated

People walking on the city street.

They took several variables into account. | Dovapi/iStock/Getty Images

Researchers at the Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto relied on several sources, including the World Urbanization Prospects by the United Nations. The study also factored in fertility, mortality, and educational attainment, along with current city size, country population growth, and urbanization rates. The researchers used several mathematical models and arrived at different figures. We’re basing our list on the World Urbanization Prospects extrapolations shown in the data.

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