Five Largest States by Population

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The United States has well over 300 million people in its 3.5 million square miles.

By of the onset of 2013, the United States had topped 315 million people, making it the third most populous country on the planet, behind China and India. Decades ago, the most populous of the 50 states were concentrated in the eastern half of the nation, but by the beginning of the 21st century, the five most populous states could not have been more widely scattered.

  1. California

    • The nation's third largest state in area is by far its greatest in terms of population. With its estimated 38,332,521 residents as of 2013, California's total population topped Texas, the next biggest, by a margin of almost 50%. California also had the second biggest city in America in Los Angeles, as well as the eighth largest, San Diego. As is typical of coastal states, most of California's citizens live on or relatively close to the state's extensive shoreline, its western border along the Pacific Ocean.

    Texas

    • As of 2013, the Lone Star State was the second biggest in the U.S., in both size and population; its 26,448,193 people give it an edge of about seven million over New York and Florida. Texas was also the only state in the country with three cities exceeding a population of one million: Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. Texas also included three rapid-growing cities with well over half a million people -- Austin, El Paso and Fort Worth.

    New York

    • In the middle of the 20th century, New York had both the most populous city in America and the highest population of any state. Although New York City easily retains its distinction as the largest city in the nation, by the onset of 2013, the state had slipped to a distant third with 19,651,127 people, and was about to be surpassed by the much faster growing state of Florida. New York is something of a curiosity among high-population states in having no significantly large cities besides New York City itself.

    Florida

    • The Sunshine State experienced a prodigious growth rate toward the end of the 20th century and into the early part of the 21st, one that carried its population past the 18.8-million mark. Although that growth had slowed considerably by 2010, three years later, Florida, with an estimated 19,552,860 residents, was poised to overtake New York and become the nation's third-biggest. At that time, Florida had no cities over a million, with Jacksonville the closest at about 840,000, but featured numerous key populations centers, such as greater Miami, Tampa-Saint Petersburg, and greater Orlando.

    Illinois

    • Home to some 12,882,135 people as of 2013, Illinois had more people than any state not bordering an ocean. Its biggest city, Chicago, lies on on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and was home to the country's third-greatest population. By this time, Pennsylvania, also experiencing slow growth compared to Sun Belt regions, had closed to within about 100,000 of Illinois' total. The seventh-biggest state, Ohio, was considerably behind the pair with a population of 11,570,808.

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